Backyard Farm Stories
Poor Hung Odessa
When I came into the garage early that morning to care for the chickens, I found Odessa hanging head down from the light-switch cord which was wrapped around her foot. She was stiff and still and I feared she was dead. The other chickens seemed unconcerned. (Randy Rooster was crowing his displeasure at being locked in a garage and the hens were gathered around me making “where’s our treats?” noises).
Now, the chickens were in the garage because it was minus two degrees outside and I did not want them to freeze to death but as it was only twenty-five degrees in the garage I was afraid that that was exactly what poor Odessa had done. Nonetheless, I gently lifted her and cradled her next to my body. Then I disentangled her foot from the light cord all the while wondering how in God’s name she had gotten herself into such an impossible fix. I had gone to great lengths to make the garage safe and chicken-friendly. The concrete floor was covered in hay (grass clippings that I harvested last summer) and I had jimmied up roost bars using an old step ladder and some wooden rods. There was fresh water and food at the ready. What more could they ask for?
Well, apparently Odessa was displeased with the accommodations and decided to roost high up on a shelf right next to the string which I pull to turn the light on. As to how she managed to wrap it around her foot and hang herself, I’ll never know.
As it turned out, contrary to appearances, Odessa was not dead. So after a quick evaluation which revealed no fractures or other injuries, I held her and massaged her ice cold feet. She still wasn’t moving but she was breathing and blinking and after a while I set her down in the grass hay. She puffed up and hunkered down and stayed just where I put her.
Now, it must be said that Randy Rooster and Odessa are a bit of an item. She is never far from him and although he takes his job seriously and attends to all of the girls, Odessa is his favorite. And so when Randy observed Odessa all hunkered and puffed, he apparently misread her signals for he immediately jumped on top of her and did what roosters do. To Randy's surprise, she did not respond to his advances which apparently quelled his ardor for he gave it up and wandered off to look for greener pastures elsewhere.
I did my best not to anthropomorphize the moment and wring Randy’s neck. In my three years with chickens I have learned that they have their own rules and they generally know what they’re doing and it is best if I do not try to impose my human values upon them. (Early on in my chicken career I tried and it always ended badly. But that’s a whole other story…..)
I waited a while to make sure Randy Rooster would behave himself and that Odessa’s sister-wives would leave her alone. Then I went off to take care of the rest of my family, namely Farm Dog Jesse. Half of him is Australian Shepherd and when I started my farm/chicken enterprise I had high hopes that he would one day perform herding duties. Sadly, it was not to be. He flunked out of Chicken Herd-Dog School but at least he did finally learn not to chase or eat them. But that, too, is a whole other story……
I fed Farm Dog Jesse, made myself breakfast and then ate it while reading a novel about weird characters doing strange things down in the Florida Keys where it is not minus two degrees. Then I returned to the cold garage to see what had become of Odessa.
I opened the door. Randy was still splitting the air with his loud, angry, ‘why am I still in the garage?’ cock-a-doodle doos. And there was Odessa running around, gulping down food with her sisters, none the worse for her near death experience.
Randy Rooster and Odessa
('Dancing with the Stars' Audition)
Odessa back amongst the living