Sunday, March 8, 2015

The Fowl Whisperer

“Do you think the chickens get lonely?” I said opening the coop door to allow the fowl to access their chicken run.
“They have each other,” Mr. Wonderful said tossing some grapes into the run.
“But is two enough?” 
The birds raced each other for the grapes and just as Honey had one in her beak, Pilgrim clawed and crawled over Honey’s back seizing the fruit from her bill to gobble it down—along with every other grape available—leaving Honey with none. We watched in stunned silence.
“On second thought, maybe two chickens is two too many.” 

Mr. Wonderful wanted egg-laying chickens for his Christmas gift so he got them as his Christmas gift, but what I suspected would happen, happened: I spent more time with them than he did. As an early riser I did a lot of the feeding, watering and fluffing of the fowl’s feathers. Which wouldn’t even be worth noting if the hens were holding up their side of the bargain. In other words: producing eggs. They had been advertised as “egg-laying chickens” not “voracious grape-addicted monsters”. 

The critters were now five months old and according to the Farmer’s Almanac, due to be laying eggs—tan, golden or otherwise—but they weren’t. Instead what they were doing was scratching up their chicken run for grapes, clucking at me to give them more grapes and duking it out over grapes. If these chickens were human beings, they’d be wine drinkers.

“Maybe they’re not laying yet because they’re getting too many fruity grapes and not enough vegetables?” I said over an egg-less breakfast. 
“Nope,” Mr. Wonderful said eating a bowl of cold granola.
“Maybe they need some more feathered friends?”
“Maybe they need a fowl whisperer?”

Not that I knew of a fowl whisperer but if there were whisperers for horses, dogs and cats, why not for our fair fowl? 

A little google search introduced me to a radio personality who calls himself The Chicken Whisperer but since I couldn’t fly my birds to Georgia for a one-on-one with him, I had to find another whisperer option. 

Google also told me about a book called “The Hen Whisperer”, a work of fiction where a boy hits his head and gains the ability to communicate with his hens. But since I needed non-fiction help, I had to find another whisperer option. 

I heard clucking coming from our chicken run but it didn’t sound like our fowl. I left my computer and tip-toed to the run. 
“Bok-bok.” It sounded again. “Bok-bok-boo!”
Through the slats of the fence between our property and Harold’s, I saw a white-haired woman bent over looking our birds in the eye.
“Norma, are you okay?”
“Fine,” her voice warbled. “I’m just conversing with your chickens. They’re so interested.” I looked at our hens and indeed they were mesmerized: staring at Norma through the fence trying to determine if what they heard clucking was a Buff Orpington, a Barred Rock or a Rhode Island Looney Lady. She had their attention.
I pressed an eye to the fence gap and asked, “What do you know about chickens?”

Norma said she grew up with chickens on her parents’ farm. Feeding them and collecting the eggs was her responsibility. 
Wow. I’d been looking all over the internet for a fowl whisperer and Bam! right next door I found one in Harold’s blue-eyed wife. Our neighbors never ceased to amaze me.

“In fact,” Norma continued, “When I was just a girl and World War II broke out taking my daddy away, I was tasked with plucking and slaughtering the chick—”
“We’re not slaughtering our hens,” I said stroking Honey’s tan feathers. “Say, do you know why our girls aren’t laying eggs yet?”
 “Give them time. They’ll do it soon. Until then, keep talking to them. I know I will.” With that, Norma disappeared into her house. 

I bent over looking our birds in the eye, inhaled, then let loose a resounding, “Bok-bok-boo!”
With curiosity our Buff Orpington and Barred Rock looked at me—the Rhode Island Looney Lady—and clucked back. It wasn’t a freshly laid egg, but hey!—they clucked back!

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