A Northern Transplant and Her Chickens
As a new resident of Alabama and a total foreigner to the land below the Mason Dixon line, I learned quickly to disregard the suggestions of my GPS, always ask about the origins of the meat cooking over the campfire, and to be wary of bags that move on their own. I became familiar with all varieties of a Waffle House hashbrown, and figured out grits (sort of). I went to my first crawfish boil and figured out how to eat the tiny lobsters, and casually observed a timber rattlesnake without running away or even flinching. I drank more sweet tea than is recommended. I became accustomed to the fake deer head that hung over the fireplace and then adorned it with Mardi Gras beads and Christmas lights. I was as near to acclimated as a Northern girl could get.
So, I got chickens.
Of course we have chickens up North. Or, other people do. Suddenly, though, I reached a level of comfort with my new state that demanded immediate fowl ownership. With no prior knowledge and the same amount of patience, I threw myself into the business of chicken ownership enthusiastically, gathering the supplies that seemed adequate during several trips into town one afternoon. With unearned and unbridled confidence, some old lumber and chicken wire, I built a haphazard coop in the backyard one afternoon and prepared to fill it up.
A semi-distant neighbor with a backyard flock numbering upwards of 400 was willing to part with four chickens, and I was suddenly in business.. I gave each bird a name befitting a Victorian lady, and then lost all of them by sunset the following day.
Yes, within several hours of becoming a chicken owner, I suddenly was not a chicken owner at all. At the first opportunity for feeding, and during my first chance to really bond with the birds, it seemed that I had sufficiently disappointed Virginia, Mabel, Millie and Fancy enough to drive them away from their new home and into the trees, where they roosted stubbornly for days.
No amount of sneaking up on them, singing Reba hits, or coaxing with leftover cornbread would persuade my ladies into their home. I had rogue chickens on hand, and suddenly no chance for either the fresh eggs or fowl companionship that I imagined all other Alabama chicken owners enjoyed. I pleaded. I pouted. I plotted.
And, I enlisted the help of a fellow former Northerner with a butterfly net and a penchant for adventure, who had recently gained local notoriety for her finesse in catching armadillos (Dear reader, allow this to color your opinion of the part of Alabama I was living in; such feats actually earned a fair amount of fame and glory). This was the woman for the job, and she agreed to take some time off from armadillo hunting to outsmart the elusive winged ladies.
In the dark of night, with the white canvas of the net catching the moonlight through the trees, we snuck through my backyard. As if taunting me, or perhaps just biding their time, the chickens had roosted nearby each night since their escape, and within sight of my bedroom window. The low branches were just above reach, but within the range of the butterfly net. Luckily evading predator, the stubborn but sleepy chickens were no match for the local hero I had enlisted. Stealthily and gently, each was roused, and returned to the coop that night without further incident.
Perhaps it was the care I took in rearranging the coop before their return, or the extra hay I had placed, but this time, the chickens were home for good. After we were able to reconcile our differences, the feathered backyard friends stayed put in their abode, each leading full (if not terribly long) lives in the most glorious place in Alabama. Next time, I’m going to get fish.