Letter from Birdland: Be careful what you wish for, folks

In Birdland we have some new chickens. They look a lot like kittens.

They are a trio of silkies. If you didn't know, Silkies are chickens with fur. They look like cartoon characters. It's not really fur, but the feathers are long and so slender that they look like you could knit them into an angora sweater. Think feather boa.

The rooster is tall and looks a little like a miniature llama. He is white with lovely black wattles and ears tinged in an electric blue. The hens are shorter but still like llama-kittens. One is white, the other black.

Cody says the little black hen is starting to crow. Hens sometimes do that when they get older, but I have never seen it.

The new chickens arrived last night. Ellis picked them up, and together we put them in the aviary in the dark. My youngest had missed the bus again, so had to drive to school — a weak punishment — and then picked up the lovely little trio on his way home.

When he arrived, I followed him out to the driveway and he opened the hatchback and grabbed the rooster directly from the car (apparently he didn't hear me when I told him to take the pet taxi) and handed him to me. Chickens are fairly docile in the dark, mostly because they can't see, and the transfer was fairly peaceful.

In the morning, Michael was leaving for work, making trips back and forth from the kitchen to the car, stowing his briefcase, his lunch, pouring his travel mug of coffee, and he asked me, "Do we have a chicken that makes a funny crow?" (I had, maybe, forgotten to mention the new arrivals.) And I told him, honestly, "I don't know, because I don't have my hearing aids in. I can't hear any crows."

Later I heard exactly what he was talking about. The rooster has an awkward crow that sounds like a bark of hysterical laughter. One sharp note, ending with a question. Or a surprised shriek, like when you step into the shower to find the water has not heated up after all.

The next morning, I learned once again to be careful what I wish for. Was it me, wishing last week for a real winter? In the night, a storm blew in and stranded Chandra in an airport in Dallas for the duration of the blizzard (my oldest was on his way home from Seattle) and blew out the aviary door so violently that it splintered. In the morning, the top half of the door hung on its hinges, and the chickens grazed in the yard like three miniature llamas with facial jewelry and tattoos. It was still warm at that point, and the wind was coming in gusts.

Michael repaired the door and we walked around the yard, picking up broken branches. I poured some food for the new chickens, who were not mixing with the flock, but were sheltering under the little bunch of quince bushes. They ventured out to the food, but I couldn't get close to them. Later in the afternoon I was alone at home, and when I needed to go to town, the rising winds had a bite. I knew I wouldn't be home before dark, so I devoted about 45 minutes to trying to catch the three chickens.

The little black hen was easy, and I caught her with a sudden lunge and popped her in the coop, where the flock had by now bedded down. The other two were now sticking to the center of the bushes, but I caught the rooster about five minutes later. He put up a mighty squawking. I put him in the coop and hoped for peace.

But the last little hen, try as I might, braving the scratching of the bushes, I simply could not catch. I had to go to town. I called Ellis, who assured me that he'd catch her when he got home. He was coming soon.

I described her location: "She's been there all day. I'm sure she will just stay there." Dusk would be an easy time to catch her, and dusk was coming soon. I went to my appointment, sure that he would find her.

To be continued

Wait in beauty; watch in peace; blessed be.

Mary Lucille Hays lives in Birdland near White Heath. She doesn't like to leave her oldest hanging at the airport terminal, or her little hen lost in the bushes at dusk, but she has run out of words. Tune in next week for the exciting conclusion. You can see photos of Birdland at http://www.letterfrombirdland.blogspot.com. Hays can be reached at letterfrombirdland@gmail.com.

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rsp wrote on January 06, 2013 at 5:01 pm

I would love to have chickens. Champaign is such a backwards city. It's not like they could possibly cause any trouble...

americanproud wrote on January 06, 2013 at 7:01 pm

I look forward to the Birdland Letters every week.  It's almost as enjoyable as sitting and reading a good book or waiting for the next episode of a favorite show. 

Mary Hays wrote on January 13, 2013 at 3:01 pm
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Your kind note warms my heart, Bricklayer. Thank you. :)

Mary Hays wrote on January 13, 2013 at 3:01 pm
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Chickens are delightful, and hens are very quiet. They are as easy to keep as other pets. I don't know if I could live in a town that didn't allow chickens.