Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Column about Flossy

I know that nobility, bravery, and sacrifice are not words you would normally associate with chickens. I’ve been around chickens all my life and for the most part, I’ve never given them much thought. But over the last couple of weeks, I’ve come to see them in a different light.

Some time back a neighbor that was renting a place across the road from us raised game chickens. A few of his chickens fled the captivity of his yard and into the sanctuary of our yard. Two hens began roosting in our huckleberry bush. When the sun struck their feathers, they turned amber like an expensive Persian rug.

The day the guy moved, he came over after dark for his chickens. As he approached the huckleberry bush, the hens bailed out and ran around the yard with this guy in hot pursuit. If I had filmed the episode, I could have won first place in America’s Funniest Videos because it was a scream.

He was a smoker and after chasing the chickens for about 20 minutes, he could not take the exertion or the fact that we were laughing uncontrollably at his plight. He stomped out his cigarette and said you can keep the dang chickens (he used the bad word). So we did.

Some time later, we got a rooster to go with the hens and they’ve kept all the ants and bugs pecked up out of our yard.

A few weeks ago, Flossy had her first batch of chicks. One morning we saw six tiny peeps following her around our yard scratching and pecking the ground.

Flossy was a warrior-mother at heart. She took guff from nothing or no one. She weighed about five pounds soaking wet, but she looked a lot bigger when she was mad.

A dog that lives down the road and roams the neighborhood ran up in the yard last week. Normally Flossy would simply have flown over the backyard fence with our other two adult chickens, but now she had babies to protect.

Flossy apparently commanded the peeps to stay put because they squatted in place and Flossy lead the dog away from them and out into the open.

When the dog started after her, she fluffed out her feathers, started making this evil guttural clucking sound, and she tried her best to peck the befuddled dog's eyes out.

Jilda saw the altercation, snagged up the BB gun and put a small piece of copper on the dog’s rear end. He immediately understood that the price of a chicken dinner was too high and left the yard in a hurry.

Fast-forward to last Thursday. I was drinking coffee and I heard the chickens sounding the alarm. I've had the birds long enough to recognize the difference between normal clucking and the sound they make when they are frightened.

I walked outside and two of the adult chickens, Bonnie and Clyde were under the deck. There were no dogs in the back yard, but I caught a glimpse of a hawk out of the corner of my eye.

I ran back inside, got the BB gun, and started firing in the general direction of the hawk to scare it off. Apparently, one shot came close because the predator flew off down toward the barn.

That evening, we noticed that Flossy was missing. The peeps were under the front porch but Flossy was nowhere to be found. She didn't return Friday either.

I walked to the garden on Saturday and I found her remains. We didn't see what happened, but she must have used the same maneuver with the hawk that she did with the dog.

She ran away from the peeps and out into the open to keep the hawk from killing her babies.

She gave her life for theirs.

Jilda and I were both saddened by the loss of our little mama hen, but it made me think about Mother Nature. Flossie’s story in not uncommon. History is full of stories of mothers sacrificing their lives for their children.

As I sit on the porch writing this piece, I see the peeps out under the pines scratching for bugs and worms. They live thanks to the bravery and sacrifice of their mom - RIP Flossy.

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