Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Cecily, the chicken?

Trail-toughened ranchers seldom spare a nod to chickens, except when eating eggs. We had a few chickens, though we never bragged much about it. Though I realize there are lots of folks who show fowl and are deeply involved, all I'm saying here is that most ranchers, as a group, tend not to shed much admiration in the direction of chickens. And, as creatures go, chickens aren't typically thought of as possessing a deep richness of personality. Now that I've said all that, I have to mention Cecily, a Rhode Island Red hen we had for several years until she disappeared. Born to a squawky hen who insisted on laying her eggs anywhere but the egg boxes (and who finally managed to hatch a clutch of seven chicks which she raised somewhat feral) Cecily roamed and scratched with her chicklings over a wide range, but always came back to the barnyard to get a peck of the fine goat milk that we put out for the other hens, and the three roosters, all named Walter. From the original clutch of seven, all the feral chicks eventually came into the fold except Cecily, who stayed outside, never daring to enter the chicken house. She perched atop a long, skinny fence post, safe from most terrestrial predators, and stayed there even in wicked weather. I once saw her flap off a hawk descending on her for dinner. Cecily laid her eggs in one, predictable location which we habitually harvested, a fact that never caused her to trick us by laying in another feral nest. She always laid in the same place, and we always gathered them, which might explain why Cecily bore an expression of being perpetually more

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