Little Red is one of our chooks. She’s quite a little chook, and dark red. Hence her name. She has one of the most ordinary names of all our chooks. My favouritely named is Kevin, a gorgeous white silky hen. So not a Kevin.
Little Red has been missing in action (MIA) quite a lot lately. For kicks, we let all the chooks out to free range in our front yard a few times a week, and if they don’t shit up the verandah and the garden beds too much, they get to go out more often. The only problem with this is that they tend to lay eggs under the house which means we don’t get any eggs, and at a later point in time they go rotten and explode.
Anyway, Little Red hasn’t been coming home in the evenings. For weeks. And only once during that time did I see her or hear her out the front by herself.
Where has she been going? What has she been eating? Does she roost at night or sleep under the house somewhere? Has she been laying any eggs? When did it become OK for her to shirk her egg laying, chookly responsibilities?
Four days ago, she reappeared at dusk, in the front yard, waiting by the gate, in the spot where the other girls wait when it’s getting on in the day and they want to go home to roost. I opened the gate and she headed for home with some gentle coaxing from me, and some yelling (by me) at the dog, who is fantastic with sheep but completely nuts with chooks and can not work out which direction to herd them. To be honest I think the little red one was hungry and thirsty, because once she got “home” she sat on the bucket of water for a long time – having long, cool drink. I felt rather pleased that she wasn’t lost, or eaten by a dog or an urban fox (yes, its true, they do lurk around our streets!) and that she was finally “safely home”.
Although I am not officially the ‘chicken mum’ being an actual mum has led to me being to unofficial mother of all pets in our house. As with generally mother duties I feed and water the chickens, and make sure they have a bed to roost in. Now we have 2 new baby chickens I do extra chicken mum duties like putting them to bed at night (wrapped up in a hand towel who is their fake chicken mum for night times) and making sure they are socialising with the other chooks, but not liable for bashings (so they are in a smaller cage in the pen with the big girls). Tonight when I did those motherly duties, Little Red watched me. I’d say she was summing me up, if it was possible to pick what a chicken was thinking. I filled two buckets with fresh water, fed the big chooks, wrapped up the little chickens, filled up a little water and a little chicken food bowl for when they wake up, and exited. Latched the gate behind me, and scraped off the bottom of my thongs. And that’s when I saw her – Little Red – with her eye to the crack in the gate. Looking longingly out. Longingly!
There’s somewhere else she wants to be. She’s not all over the baby chickens and two new teenage chickens who are getting put into pecking order by the other old birds. She’s not interested in Kevin and her clucky ways or how Pepe likes to sit down and eat or how fluffy Phyllis’s new head feathers are. She’s definitely into survival and getting enough food and water, but she doesn’t pick out all the sunflower seeds from the seed mix over and above everything else. She just eats a bit of everything.
There’s somewhere else she’s meant to be. There’s something else she’s got to do to. She doesn’t want to be stuck in the there with a crazy bunch of birds, fighting over roosting on top of the door. She’s got plans and dreams and they are all on the other side of that gate.
Little Red wants out. I’m with you girl. Don’t get caught in the chicken run.