Chickens know when they are being stalked. Like cows, even among a crowd of companions they can somehow sense that the humans are trying to cut them from the group.
I am a bit obvious when I stalk, of course. (When I stalk animals, that is. For humans, I’m something closer to Burton Guster’s jackal mode.) I settle my weight on the balls of my feet, hold my arms loose at my sides, and hunch my shoulders ever so slightly. I shouldn’t be surprised when the chickens see this obviously-predatory posture and hightail it. But it’s impossible to sidle up to them while pretending you don’t know they’re there.
Why am I stalking chickens?
Well, have you ever chased a chicken? It’s fun.
Actually, I did have a purpose in trying to catch chickens yesterday. About two weeks ago, a rooster who looks very much like one of ours showed up at the coop and made himself at home. The hens didn’t mind him at all (in fact, one of them developed a crush) and our own two roosters were fine so long as this rogue didn’t get too close or threaten their authority.
Yesterday afternoon, Dad and I went outside to survey the garden plot. Halfway through, Dad took to digging out stones in a rocky part of the plot. This resulted in lots of turned-up dirt and, thus, worms and grubs.
Our chickens are very handy when it’s gardening time. They are all equipped with uncannily accurate worm radars. The moment Dad started working, they mobbed. (Mobbing chickens are helpful for anyone learning to avoid zombie hordes.) Among them, the rogue rooster strutted very self-importantly. We’ve suffered him up to this point because he wasn’t really causing a problem, but Mom wants to hatch more chicks this year and she doesn’t want his offspring in the mix. Challenge accepted.
Chickens don’t have much in the way of reasoning powers, but their instincts are impressive. He sensed right away that I was trying to get him into the run and did everything in his power to avoid that. Every time he tried to change course, I ducked to cut him off. I almost had him when Dad jumped in to “help”. Once Dad got bored, I had to start it all over again. I’m a very patient chicken wrangler.
At last, I got him into the run and from there into our little “chick tractor”: a triangular enclosure we use to introduce chicks to the outdoors and the rest of the flock without having to worry about them getting lost or hurt. The rooster saw his misstep a second too late and started to flap his wings in frustration. While I was looking for something to block off the open end of the tractor with, one of the hens wandered inside without a care in the world.
It took five solid minutes to get her out without letting the rogue get loose. Then I found a board to block the exit and fist-pumped.
(I did set up an old dog house stuffed with hay for him to spend the night in, since he was alone and the nights are still chilly. I’m not completely heartless.)
A while later, just for fun, I decided to see if I could catch our head rooster without cornering him. He’s a little wiser to my antics and kept what he thought was just out of my reach, but my reflexes are improving. I lunged, he darted, and I caught his leg. Then I paraded him around the yard, upside down and tucked under my arm, while Dad finished staking out the garden.
For a girl who once swore off chickens as too much trouble, mean, and possibly dangerous, I’ve really become acclimated to their presence. Their entertainment value alone makes up for their occasional moodiness.
Now I just have to figure out where the rogue belongs and send him on his way.