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October 11, 2014: Saving Sophie

Lee Heinrich, who lives in Palmer, is in my Thursday night yoga class. Last week we got to talking – she said that she had two chickens who were destined for the stew pot. I said that I’d be interested in taking one on. So she called yesterday and said that if I was serious about taking on a chicken, that I’d need to come out to her place today.

I went to her place today, and she introduced me to Sophie, the chicken that was lowest on the pecking order. Admittedly, it was hard to tell which one was The Chicken since the other two in the coop looked just like her. Lee said that the names of the three birds were

red, green, and yellow, the colors of their leg bands.

I said that I’d already named the bird in question. Yesterday I was, as I drove to town, running chicken names through my head. I came up with Sophie in seeing a discarded couch that someone had dumped off next to the mailboxes at the intersection of Buffalo Mine Road and the Glenn Highway.

Naming a chicken is easy; in fact, it is easier than naming a goat, horse, or dog. This is because chickens are a supposedly an expendable commodity. They come, they go, they get sliced, diced, and fried. They also have a shorter life expectancy than other animals – and really, all they do is hang out, eat, shit, and lay an occasional egg.

A chicken’s being a pet. Some get lucky in this respect. I have had a handful of wonderful birds over the years, and in observing them, I have come to realize that giving this select few a bit more time has been most appreciated. Chickens are not forward thinkers, so they don’t (as do us humans) fear dying. However, the moment in which they pass through the portal, and go from one existence to the next, is not at all pleasant.

I wondered when Lee gave me this bird what I was getting into. I hadn’t asked for a description, but as it turned out, Sophie is sophie sized. In fact, she’s so robust that Lee’s husband Mike had to go and get a larger box. My concern was that our chickens are on the small size, so she might bully them. I also made a judgment call in thinking that Sophie might be like Nimby, another large white chicken. She was extremely boisterous, and gave the likes of Henny Penny Palin and Chicken Cacciatore a run for their money.

I stopped at the IBEW office after picking up Sophie, for I was scheduled to hang out there and make political phone calls for Warren Keogh, who is running for State Senate, District E.

I asked some of the other callers if they wanted a chicken – no one did, but it seemed like all knew of someone else who might take her.

Another caller came into the office – I told him about Sophie, who was in the cardboard box in my truck. He began joking about my having gotten a chicken, so I strode out to the car and brought her inside.

Much to my surprise, Sophie was extremely calm and level headed. She didn’t flap around in my arms, nor did she struggle to break free of my grasp. I put her on phone calling organizer Judy Donegan’s desk, and she sat there, making soft chicken sounds.

Everyone was impressed, including me. So I decided (based on her exemplary behavior) that I’d keep her if she got along with Freebird and Chickaroo. As it turned out, the introduction went well. The three met in the lower portion of the chicken coop. I put some food out for them. Freebird and Chickaroo ate their dinner, and Sophie wandered around, all the while keeping a close eye on them. There was no in-fighting going on by the time I went on back up into the house. My hope is that the two will relax and then let the newcomer eat her share.

So the Squalor Holler Animal Count is now three chickens, three dogs, three horses, and two goats. Good things come in threes. I need to get another goat.

All the chickens are molting. I do hope that there is a resurgence in egg production. This isn’t a prerequisite for living here, but it does go well up at the big house. We’ll see how it goes.

Next: 272. 10/12/14: Getting Ready for Winter