Tuesday, 22 March 2016

The great escape, a chicken's tale.

At the weekend one of the Crested Cream Legbar (CLB) chickens had an adventure. As we opened the gate to let a visitor drive their car out, one of the CLB chickens made a bid for freedom.

Now the only way that a chicken can make a bid for freedom is if they are penned in to start with. The prison that this poor little hard-done-by chicken was escaping from is the best part of three quarters of an acre. The chickens have secure housing at night that they head to at dusk and I let them out again at dawn. During the day they have free reign of the smallholding apart from the area that I will use for growing vegetables. So they have hedges to forage under, grassy areas to scratch in, huge scrubby areas that have been covered in falling leaves and are now rich with insects and worms, dust bathing areas, covered areas and so it goes on. These chickens have a wonderful life!

But, as is so often the case, the grass seemed greener on the other side. So one of the young CLB chickens thought it would be splendid to go on an adventure to the land beyond the farm gate.

I have never seen a chicken move so fast, she was the Usain Bolt of chickens, her little legs carrying her off along the lane and straight towards the main road at the end of the lane.

So off I took after her, but every time I got close to her, she ran further along the lane. Now I realise that it's only a chicken, but we have the chickens for a reason. They are to supply us with eggs and eventually with meat and these little CLB haven't started laying yet and I don't want to lose one before they have become useful. Quite apart from that, losing a chicken to the outside world is horrid, I know that she wouldn't last long at night without the security of her predator proof house and despite carefully not naming the CLB so that they don't become pets, I still feel an affection for these funny little animals that share our smallholding with us.

When she stopped running, presumably spotting something she simply had to peck at, we changed pace and we started a silly dance. I took a few steps forward and then so did she, I moved to the right, she moved to the left. And so this went on... and on. Eventually she decided to squeeze through the gap in the fence of one of our neighbours (there are three smallholdings grouped together along our lane) and I followed her in, not by squeezing through the gap, I opened the gate. We then did the dance right around the outside of our neighbour's home. I knocked on his door to apologise for the intrusion, but luckily he wasn't home so I didn't have to be too embarrassed about losing a chicken. Even if this chicken was as fast as Road Runner!

Mr J had fetched some corn, which usually the chickens will rush to us to have and he had positioned himself in the lane to stop the CLB heading further along the lane to the main road. So between us we should have been able to herd her back to her home. No chance, she was having none of it! I managed to 'encourage' her out of the neighbour's garden and back into the lane where she promptly ignored the corn offering and headed straight into our other neighbour's yard.

This was one badly behaved chicken. I suspect that at this point she was feeling pretty panicked, out of her safe home space with us trying to shoo her in one direction or another, either panicked or feeling pretty pleased with herself for evading capture. Anyway, now I needed to knock on the other neighbour's door to let them know that I was going to be running around their yard trying to catch a manic chicken. Phew! they also weren't in.

After I had chased this little chicken in circles a few times, she made a bee line for the neighbour's chicken enclosure and oooh, she was interested in them. This seemed to me to be an ideal moment to let her settle from her panic, but no, she was off again. Running left and right along the fencing that edged the neighbour's chicken enclosure. So like a demented galumphing thing, I also did the left, right, left, right chicken chase dance. Thank goodness no one  other than Mr J could see me (and he's done this chicken - and duck - dance with me, so there's less embarrassment). This little girl was becoming a slippery fish, darting between my ankles and racing around the corner, diving behind fruit trees and back over towards the neighbour's chicken enclosure. I was starting to think that I may have to abandon hope at being able to catch her. And at that point, my neighbour, whose yard I was standing in, appeared from inside their house, smiling calmly and asked me if I had a chicken on the loose. Poo! I was caught red-handed not being about to catch my chicken.

So now there were two of us doing the chicken catching dance with Mr J on guard outside my neighbours yard to stop the CLB from racing off down the lane to the main road. Of course, it took my neighbour all of 45 seconds to corner the bird, but then she tried to go through the netting of his chicken enclosure and got stuck. So he calmly, gently but firmly took her in his hands, scooped her up and cuddled her, ready to walk back along the lane and deposit her in her home territory.

I can only imagine the stories that she has told her fellow chickens about the time that she escaped and explored the big wide world outside the farm gate.

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