Southwords

Chicken Delight

You can’t stop them. You can only hope to contain them

By Beth MacDonald

Sometimes my husband
and I will bird watch from our porch while we enjoy our coffee. We let the dogs run around their self-made Tough Mudder obstacle course — the remnants of what used to be the lawn.

One particularly fine morning I sighed contentedly. “Ah, I hear the cardinals.” I looked around to see if I could spot them on the blooming camellia bush.

“Wait . . . shhh!” Mason sputtered. I heard it, too. It was a clucking sound. “That’s a chicken!” Spinning around so fast the G-forces almost threw him out of his chair, Mason’s bewilderment made me laugh. “Why is there a chicken in our yard?” He wanted answers, damn it.

“Because it’s our yard. I don’t know why you’re surprised.”

Snapping a picture, I sent my neighbor a text asking if she’d lost something. About yay high. Four toes. Skinny legs. She quickly replied that she wasn’t home and if I simply walk toward it, the beast should return to her yard. Mystery solved.

If and should are words that automatically mean to me that things are about to go the exact opposite of how they should go — especially since I was in my mismatched Spaceman Spiff pajamas.

I pulled my boots on and walked to the side yard with Mason. He is always dressed. He was born dressed. He knows that bad things always happen before coffee. I should have learned as much by now.

When I walked toward the chicken, it chose to exercise its free will prerogative as one of God’s creatures and went in the direction opposite of where it was supposed to go. It walked in circles. As I kept trying to herd the bird home, Mason stood there, arms crossed, advising me on the proper technique for catching a chicken. I didn’t realize he was Chicken Dundee.

Squatting low and assuming the stance of a Sumo wrestler — because in my mind these creatures must surely understand the Japanese sport — I stared at the ground, pounded my feet and followed the fowl straight into a prickly holly bush. Chicken Dundee stood there glaring at me.

“You’re doing it wrong.”

“We’ll I’ve never hunted chickens before!”

“What you need to do is blah blah blah,” he preached from the sidelines.

Mimicking the walk of a chicken and chasing it seemed like a much better idea than whatever it was Mason was saying. So, that was my new plan.

Untangling myself from the holly bush, I made a “bawk bawk” noise and, wearing Spaceman Spiff instead of a Sumo belt, I charged. It ran toward my husband for safety. He calmly wrapped his hands around its wings and gently placed it over our neighbor’s fence. Poultry crisis averted. Temporarily.

The problem is that we recently adopted another dog. She’s a 2-year-old Cane Corso, obedience trained and raised for breeding. That didn’t work out for her. Unwanted, she joined our ragtag bunch of misfits. Before we got her, however, her diet had consisted mainly of raw chicken. Exactly.

Two days after we adopted New Dog, on another bucolic, porch-sitting morning we settled in with a lovely light roast. Before we could get the first sip down, we heard the wild jungle screams of Jumanji from the backyard. A slow-motion scene of chaos played out in front of us.

There were seven chickens running, squawking in panic, three dogs barking, galloping with delight toward the disarray, and a hawk swooping down, screaming toward pretty much anything with the potential of transitioning into carrion. Mason lurched forward, his coffee a still frame of liquid suspended in air, yelling in deep-throated slow-mo, “Nooooooooo!”

It was my turn to advise from the sidelines. My inner monologue said, “Why are there shenanigans before coffee?”

Then it hit me. New Dog eats chicken. Raw chicken. I called her and yelled, “Stop!” My inner monologue scoffed. The dog did not stop. I started calling for all the dogs to stop. Like any good mother, none of their names came to mind. I started spewing out random bits and pieces of names, including the names of my children, followed by, “Whatever your name is, SIT!” while clapping like a schoolmarm.

My neighbor scared the hawk off with a pellet gun. It flew away like someone leaving the McDonald’s drive-thru with the wrong order. As quickly as this old-fashioned melee started it was over.

I met my neighbor at the absolutely useless fence line, both of us breathless. I asked her if she needed help rounding up her chickens. I am a pro now. She declined but wondered out loud, “Why did all of this happen before coffee?” Because, well, us. PS

Beth MacDonald is a Southern Pines suburban misadventurer who likes to make words up. She loves to travel with her family, read everything she can, and shop locally for her socks.

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