Last Sunday afternoon, July 13th, while on retreat at
What on earth ...? Feral chickens? Where did they come from? Were they fugitive Easter chicks? Someone’s pets? It seemed unlikely that a residential area like Briarcliffe would permit livestock.
These were two beauties, a rooster and a hen—puffs of spotless white feathers, especially full around the feet, and the male had long, shiny feathers on his back. They looked like prize winners at a state fair. As I bent over for a closer look, my sunglasses fell out of my pocket, and the rooster came right over to inspect them at my feet, so they seemed to be used to humans. I whipped out my camera for a few shots.
After admiring them for a minute more, I continued on my way, wondering if I should notify anyone about their presence on the Center. Luckily, two young Baba-lovers were coming on foot toward the Sheriar Gate, so I pointed them toward the chickens and went on to Jerry’s. There I had great fun watching people’s jaws drop open when I said, “Guess what I saw on the Center?” and showed them the photos.
Later I heard the rest of the story. Dean N., one of the staff, recruited Joel M. (who happened to be sitting in the Refectory) to capture the fugitives, as Joel possessed chicken experience. When he arrived on the scene, he found a small crowd surrounding the pair with towels to corral or capture them, but no one knew how. Not a problem for Joel: he grabbed them by the legs. The hen at first ran away, but he chased her into the woods and snatched her up. Then he announced that he needed a pillowcase to stuff them into. It just so happened that Jeff W. was wearing a pillowcase on his head!
Now the question was where to put them. Joel said it was urgent to get them settled or else they might drop dead from the shock of being captured. Someone suggested the guest cabin known as the Coop, but it already had a featherless inhabitant. An even better idea was to use the cage-like device that had been built with fence wire as a raccoon-proof receptacle for the temporary storage of garbage. Joel attached a couple of broom handles with wire to serve as roosts. It was in this makeshift coop behind Lee’s garage workshop that I saw the two chickens the next morning after following the sound of the rooster’s crow. Dean was there to tell me that during the night raccoons had tried to dig their way to “Fannie and Freddie” (as Dean dubbed them)—without success, fortunately.
And now for the happy ending. The next day, the chickens were spirited away in a cat carrier, adopted by a pair of Baba-lovers who have a small chicken farm out in the country. They identified the birds as a Japanese breed and said they had long wanted exactly this type of chicken.
The chickens are adapting nicely to the existing flock, which includes three Rhode Island red hens. It was described to me how, when the large bowl of organic chicken feed from
The Baba-lover chicken farmer concluded this joyful tale of the two mischievous chickens by saying: “If this story isn’t Baba’s divine humor at its best, it’s not out there!”