Friday, September 16, 2011

The Prodigal Chicken

A sleepy Marigold. Sometimes, life is confusing when you're a chicken.

Twice today, I’ve returned Marigold to the flock. This morning, when I went out to offer a snack, I was greeted by Gertie, Lacey, and Violet.  Usually, all seven of them come running, so I looked around. A quick check of the coop showed that Oreo and Clover, the two Bantams, were both vying for the same nesting box. (There are three boxes, but all of them want to use the same one.) I found Paprika roosting contentedly in the garden.

But there was no sign of Marigold, the smaller Buff Orpington. I walked through the backyard, and found an oddly shaped egg sitting on the gravel path—it looked like it might belong to a hen just starting to lay. Clearly, one of the girls has not gotten to the “lay your egg in the nesting box” chapter on hen etiquette.

I continued my search for Marigold, looking under bushes and clucking to her. Violet, who seemed concerned, followed me around muttering as if to say, “Nope, we already looked under there.”

I finally found her in the front yard, on the other side of the fence from her friends. She clucked and fluffed herself indignantly when I picked her up, and chirped noisily as if annoyed with me. I returned her to the backyard.

After closing the gate and heading back to the house, I discovered another light brown egg. This one was sitting in a patio container beneath a tomato plant. Since Marigold was the only hen in that part of the yard (and I still don’t know how she got through the fence) I assumed it must be her egg, but was beginning to feel like I was on an Easter egg hunt orchestrated by one golden chicken.

Later, I went out to work in the garden. I found Marigold and Gertie happily fluffing themselves in a bag of potting soil I’d half emptied earlier. They had decided it was the perfect place for an afternoon siesta. Happily tossing the dry soil around themselves, they curled up like cats, nearly turning themselves upside down. Marigold drowsed in the sun, her pale eyelids covering her eyes as she propped her beak on the edge of the fabric. All seemed well.

I left them to nap and went back inside to work. A little while later, I heard a chorus of alarmed clucks. I went out to see what was up, and again, Marigold was missing. It took me awhile, but this time I found her behind the morning glories next to the house, again in the front yard.

She was standing next to yet another egg. I picked her up, along with the egg. She muttered at me again as I returned her to the backyard. We're both confused—I have no idea what is going on with her. But I’ll be happy when she figures it out. Hopefully, she’ll decide to start using the nesting box, or it’s going to make egg gathering a game of hide and seek.

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