Chickens of Destiny - a Post by Luke

CHICKENS OF DESTINY

Right now there are 20 billion chickens on planet Earth. 50 billion are raised annually. (Look it up). 17 of them live here.

They are named:

Peck. Pollen. Nicolas Jack. Not Nicolas Jack. No. Alone. Bubblegum Head. Chocolate Chip. Poo Head. BB-8. C-3PO. Adventure Chicken. Clone of Nud 1. Clone of Nud 2. Clone of Nud 3. Clone of Nud 4.

That in order of dominance.

Then there's Blackie, our Black Copper Maran rooster.

  Intense

Intense

Blackie is so unbelievably bad-ass, every time I look at him I hear Sleep's Dragonaut start up in my head. He's my #1 chicken. Normally we don't keep roosters but he's just too damn good looking to kill. You get a pass, Blackie! I realize that's so not fair.

Peck and Pollen are the sisters in charge. Peck is at the top of the pecking order, Pollen a close second. When the crown of responsibility weighs heavy on Peck's comb, Pollen steps up to give her a break. Pollen is the Raul Castro to Peck's Fidel.

  Peck and Pollen. Always first, ever vigilant.

Peck and Pollen. Always first, ever vigilant.

In infancy they lost a sister, Nugget. My nieces buried her in a tearful ceremony that involved songs and the careful placement of a hand painted cardboard tombstone. Our boys just blinked and moved on.

The “Nicolas Jacks” as we call them – Nicolas Jack, Not Nicolas Jack, No, Alone, and Bubblegum Head – sort of look like grouse and lay blue eggs.

  Nicolas Jack. Not Nicolas Jack.

Nicolas Jack. Not Nicolas Jack.

These are the ones that can fly, but don't. In the past I've been harsh on them for squandering this gift. But these birds just keep pounding out the eggs, so I've since reserved criticism. Here are their deals:

Alone always ends up alone, then panics.

No once got stuck on the roof of our house.

Nicolas Jack and Not Nicolas Jack are fully interchangeable.

Bubblegum Head has such an overgrown comb it looks like a wad of chewing gum got stuck to her face.

That's the Nicolas Jacks.

Chocolate Chip and Poo Head are Blue Marans. We got them with Blackie.

  Poo Head

Poo Head

Both are gentle birds. They're dove-like and have extremely dark eyes. I think it's because of those pupils the kids named one of them Chocolate Chip. Poo Head has a smear of copper on her head, so they named her Poo Head. Any day now they should be laying burgundy eggs. Sweet!

BB-8, C-3PO, and Adventure Chicken are all Barred Rocks. We got them about the time the kids watched The Force Awakens, thus the names. 

  A Barred Rock hen. Kind of got that 80s acid-wash denim look

A Barred Rock hen. Kind of got that 80s acid-wash denim look

They're the bad girls of the crew. Mostly they're found kicking back with Blackie like a trio of gum-popping Rockabilly groupies.

Clones of Nud 1-4 are the yetis, the Light Brahmas. Light Brahmas are mysterious. They claim to be from Shanghai, but along the way they got crossed with Indian birds. Then they spent a good 80 years as North America's #1 dual purpose chicken (up until the Great Depression and the onset of factory farming).

Physically they're very odd. They have plumage on their legs, their neck feathers move like shifting mandalas, and they grow to an enormous size.  

  Light Brahma hen with hypno-neck

Light Brahma hen with hypno-neck

This spring we got a batch of Brahma chicks. Friends of our were visiting at the time, and one of their boys named a chick “Nud.” It promptly died in the brooder. However, our kids claim these four Brahmas are identical to that departed chick their friend named, so Clones of Nud 1-4 it is.

That's the crew.

We've integrated new birds into our flock a couple of times now. People have told us that's a hard thing to do, but I have to ask...why? We've had zero problems. Maybe the old ones chase the new ones ten feet across the grass or something. That's the level of aggression we're talking about here. These aren't Komodo Dragons. Integrating new chickens is about as difficult as organizing shoes on a rack. Makes me wonder what's going on elsewhere.

This year we had one real stand-out. It was a Barred Rock we called “Independent Hen.” (Actually the kids named her R2-D2. But we discouraged that, because at some point you just have to reign in the hype machine).

Independent Hen didn't play games. She could care less about pecking order. If she wanted to eat something, she ate it. If she wanted to sleep on the top roost, she slept there.

She was wonderfully oblivious to social norms. And with each transgression, each step over the imaginary line, the other birds reared back and looked at Peck to lay down the law.

Finally Peck was like, “OK...you called my bluff. And fuck you guys for putting me in charge.”

The result was total liberation. Independent Hen exploded the whole pecking order. She achieved Chicken World Peace. This was the dawning of the age of Aquarius.

Then she got blown away in a thunderstorm.

That time I cut my thumb open on the chicken tractor and accidentally dropped a blood soaked bird into the pen? That guy survived. The chicken we lost that day was Independent Hen. (Well, her and another random broiler. Crap...it does sound like we lose a lot of birds. It's not that bad, I swear.)

The hail came on so fast all the layers could do was bolt for the trees and try to hang on. In the aftermath there were fucked up birds returning from all corners of the property. By the end of the day all were accounted for, except Independent Hen.

“Well,” I said, “That's a bummer.”

“Yeah,” Anna agreed, “...there was something special about that one.”

You have to understand – the intelligence of this bird was phenomenal. She could figure her way out of mazes (the other chickens are always getting baffled by the fencing outside their coop). She could anticipate food drops. She established her own nest away from the coop. And then there was her refusal to cower to authority.

Of all the chickens...why did we have to lose Independent Hen!

“We could have bred that one!” I whined. “Honestly...what if she was a mutant? Independent Hen might have altered the course of her species. But she's gone now, so...”

Things back-slid in the coop. Pecking order returned. I watched the window of destiny close for these creatures.

It's like we're in a mirror universe now, I thought, dumping out another round of feed. How long will they have to wait before they get another chance to move up the evolutionary ladder?

That was way back in the spring.

Then so much happened. We finished the pasture fencing, and moved the pigs in there for a time. Then llama drama hit. Around mid summer we butchered our pigs. Then our broilers matured and we butchered them too. Then finally we welcomed our starter flock of sheep. Success! It was a long, long busy couple of months.

To celebrate we had a family BBQ. That morning we opened the pop-hole to the coop and locked the chickens in their run. They're kind of annoying when guests are around eating. Always swarming, pecking, begging...it kills the picnic vibe. So we thought we'd keep them in there until everyone was done.

That afternoon as I was starting up the grill, a cousin of mine shouted,

“Hey Luke! One of your chickens got out!”

I looked over and saw a Barred Rock poking around at the feet of our guests. So I walked over and scooped it up.

Maybe it found a gap in the fence or something, I thought. I was about to drop it in the chicken run, but when I got there I froze.

Two Barred Rocks were already inside. This was the third.

“Holy shit!” I shouted. “What the fuck!?!”

At that point she burst out of my hands and flapped to the ground.

“Independent Hen?! No fucking way!”

(Yes I was directly addressing a chicken as if it understood English).

I looked back to where I found her. She must have strolled out from the bush. I tried to pick her up again but now she wasn't letting me. So I ducked into the garage, cupped a handful of feed, dumped it in front of her and ran off to tell Anna and the kids the news.

“Guys! Guys! Guess who's back?” I shouted.

“What? Who?”

“Independent Hen!”

“Shut the front door!”

“You gotta see this!”

We all ran back to the coop. Independent Hen was there poking around, getting reacquainted with the place.

“Unbelievable!”

“Impossible!”

“How long ago was that storm?”

We thought for a moment. There was something to pin it on – it was just before we left to visit Anna's family. Over six weeks ago.

“Six weeks! Are you kidding me?” Anna shouted, “That chicken's been on its own for a month and half? How?”

Sounds impossible, but it's true.

I have so many questions:

How did she survive?

What was she up to?

Was somebody fucking with us? (I think somebody was fucking with us).

Who was fucking with us? (...nobody was fucking with us).

Mind: Blown.

I have no answers. I'm just glad she's back. Because now our super chicken breeding program can begin in the spring of 2017.

Independent Hen (originally R2-D2), has been re-named Adventure Chicken.

What she was up to, and how she managed to survived on her own in our coyote infested forest/marsh for six weeks with no coop or food supply will forever be a mystery. That part of the story is hers, and hers alone.

But get this: Adventure has again re-set the power structure. Also, weirdly enough, she's in control of the rooster.

Sure, Blackie still jumps everything with a vent. But around Adventure he bobs and waits for her to give the OK. Then they stroll around the property like a couple of freakin' newlyweds. Has this ever happened before?

So to the billions of chickens worldwide, I say to you – hold strong. A new day is dawning.

  Adventure & Blackie Forever

Adventure & Blackie Forever