Sunday, October 23, 2005


Originally uploaded by tardigrade.

What does Miss Chicken know about impending doom?

In the morning she is happy to see me and chortles with delight as I take her from her cage to the tool shed where I keep her corn. I take a handful and sprinkle it on the ground at the entrance to the back door. She has a special vocalization that she makes when she has found something very delicious like a worm or spider ... or her morning breakfast. The cats walk carefully around her and she watches them closely, too. Sometimes she likes to take a few mouthfuls of their dry food.

I let her roam the backyard for tiny insects. Slugs, which she grabs with deftness, throws it back into her gullet. Happy chicken. Sometimes I buy meal worms for her as treats. The happy sounds that she makes. If she is across the yard and sees me with one in my hand, she will run with her grey skirts flying to snatch the writhing larvae from my fingers.

Sometimes she gets lonesome and calls for me. She used to have a friend but she died several years ago from a heart attack. Miss Chicken hid in the bushes for days. She makes a different call to me when a hawk comes to check her out. or if stray cats come to hunt for birds. When the hawk alights on the fence she yells 'chuck chuck squawk!' If I come home too late at night and she is not at the backdoor for some reason, I hunt for her in the trees.

One night I could not find her. I looked everywhere with a flashlight. I am sure the neighbors think I am crazy. I went to bed sad knowing the raccoons sneak in my yard to hunt for fish in the pond or.... Then in a terrible squawk, with a deep throated clucking she screamed for help. The dark night made it hard for her to see. I jumped from my bed and ran out the side door to find miss chicken had gotten away once again from the jaws of the raccoons. She sat under the light outside and I picked her up. She was quiet when I put her in her cage.

So from where did this terrible H5N1 come from? I know the people in China do not think about their birds like I do - but perhaps some may. One virus or up to ten of them can cause her to be very sick and she would have less then half a chance to live. I carry her about and give her a kiss on her head, so I, too, could become sick from this disease. Where would it come from?

Doves like to clean up her corn that she does not finish. Could they carry it? At night I hear geese flying could they drop it in my yard somewhere in their excrement? Could the raccoons carry it to my yard? or the squirrels? I am in the pathway of the green parrots - could they bring it to us all?

I bought her for five dollars from a ranch not too far away from my house. I found an ad in the throw away papers. I miss not having a chicken in my backyard. She was an adult bird and sat on other birds eggs she is a brooder. She is and has always been a very personable bird and loves to follow Eddie my gardener about when he digs or trims or sweeps.... When she laid eggs, she is now past that time in her life.... she preferred the kitchen counter. To inspire her, I would put my iPod in the towel next to her. She would pull the iPod by dragging it with her 'chin' under her feathers. She would sit on the iPod until her body was ready to expel her egg.

I don't see myself not caring for this animal. What to do....

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