Feral Chickens, Oh My!

My husband and I live in a not very rural suburb and in our village (yes we live in a village) there are feral chickens that roam the main square. You see them walking the streets. They might greet you as you enter the hardware store and yes, a chicken will “cross the playground to get to the other slide”. (If it looks like the kids on it have better snacks and might share.) If you went to mail a letter in our still standing, blue, street side mailbox, you might even have to shoo a hen nesting in the alcove space in front of the pull down drop shoot. Everyone thinks it’s charming and fun to see the chickens doing their chickeny thing right along side the businesses in town. Come visit, it’s cute.

When we moved here, I liked to go and see the chickens and I love to hear all the different sounds that they make. They’re quite vocal. And who doesn’t love a brightly colored rooster basking in the sunlight? I was always very eager and excited to go into the village to see the chickens! The only trouble was that I was terrified of birds. All birds! And chickens are definitely birds. So while I wanted to visit them, I also wanted them to keep their distance as I would be trying to keeping mine.

The kids in our family thought this was hilarious, since they liked to try and flock the chickens and feed them and hold them and even try to entice them to play on the slide with them. (I’ve seen it, it happens more than you would think.) But my husband thought it was funnier than anybody else and every single time would let his childlike, he thinks it’s funny, prankster nature get the best of him. This would result in him developing new and ever sneakier ways to put me in situations where I was surrounded by chickens. Small hens, chicks, and bigger than you care to take on roosters. The more he could surround me with the better, to him. He also especially enjoyed the element of surprise. I enjoyed it less. Much less!

I finally decided that I wasn’t going to let my irrational fear make me act like a fool any longer. There would be no more girly, high pitched whining to be saved from a perceived dangerous gang of chicken hooligans. From now on I would just go about what I was doing and if a chicken or two ended up in my company so be it. It’s just a chicken for goodness sake. Unfortunately, this resolution to embrace chicken nearness fell on a warm day when I was wearing flip flops. My toes painted a sparkly color of pink.  This was not a good start as chickens basically spend their entire day searching the ground for things to eat and anything that catches their eye is worth pecking and scratching to test for deliciousness. Enter me and my sparkly toes.

I kept my resolve and did a fine job of letting the curious hens know that they needed to back off and that my toes were of no edible interest. Everything was going pretty well and I was just starting to build up some level of comfort when my ever pranking hubby joined the fun without letting anyone know that he had. As I wandered the park, keeping an eye of the kids (and the chickens) it suddenly became clear that more and more chickens were beginning to follow me and where jockeying to see who could follow the closest. I tried to stay calm and decided to simply stop walking. Big mistake. Within minutes I was completely surrounded and the multitude of hens were all darting about me trying, seemingly  to see who could get as close to my unprotected feet as possible. Trying not to completely freak out running for my life, I scanned for possible help. All the while doing some kind of high step jig and pleading with the chickens to, please go away. I was so relieved to see my husband I started to cry and begged him to come over and help me get out of this chicken mosh pit.

He smiled and agreed and then giggled, saying he would help me as soon as he was done. Done??? It was only then that I realized that he had been there for a while and was using a bag of Goldfish Crackers, which he had been tossing near my feet, to create the very swarm of zombie apocalypse chickens that were sealing my doomed fate of loosing my mind out of fear.  The sudden flood of anger at his willingness, no goal, of seeing me terrified by these birds, instantly dissolved any awareness of the chickens and I walked right though the swarm towards my husband, determined to express my displeasure. The chickens followed, seeming to feed off of my sense of purpose and wanting to see what kind of treat I had discovered. I barely registered the chickens as I angrily told my husband that it wasn’t funny to scare people with zombie chickens on attack. Or to make your anxiety ridden wife look like a fool in public by triggering her anxiety.  I was pretty mad and was just starting to rev up for a nice lecture on setting a good example when he began to smirk again. (Are you kidding?!)

Now so annoyed that I simply stood staring at him. He pulled me into a hug that I resisted and pointed out that he would never let me be eaten by zombie chickens. After I had relaxed a bit he also said that he knew how brave I am and had just been trying to create an event that would prove to me exactly how brave that is. He then pointed out that I was still standing in a gaggle of chickens and hadn’t even noticed. Right then a particularly pushy hen moved forward and pecked at my big toe. It surprised me but it didn’t hurt. When I moved my foot they all backed up a bit. He quickly pointed out that anxiety or not, I was not a chicken and that the reason we use that term is because chickens are very nervous and so I should make friends with and sympathize with my new anxious by nature “Birds of a Feather” neighbors. I was still a little mad but I am also really glad that my not so funny guy knows me so well and is helping me get to know myself.