We have chickens. My husband and daughter followed their hearts, and we ended up with a coop and poop and chickens.
Our dog, Barney, is a herder. Everyday when he is released to the wilds of our backyard, he sprints to the coop and circles it—not once, not twice, but dozens of times at break-neck speeds—creating chaos as he barks orders at the flock. There is a deepening moat where he runs circles ‘round the chickens. He has done a fantastic job of keeping the chickens herded together in their well-fenced cage.
One of the poor little chickens, Mildred, is being hen-pecked. I never knew what that meant until I saw it in real life. Two of the chickens pursue her relentlessly, pecking at her feathers and pulling them out. Her backside is almost bald. It’s mean stuff. She can’t get a break.
Being the merciful soul she is, my daughter pulled the tormented creature out of the coop, hoping she will heal. She’s allowed Mildred to run wild outside—pecking at bugs and fresh vegetation—a truly free-range bird. From her new position of favor, Mildred taunts the other chickens. I can almost hear her say as she struts back and forth in front of the coup. “Look at me. I’m getting fresh bugs. Ha. That was a juicy one. Look at me. Look at me.”
The others look on jealously.
This has been going on about a week. It’s been working well. Mildred gets to roam and the wicked chickens get to be envious.
Until the other day.
Leigh Ann opened the back door, and Barney, who is always searching for adventure, bolted into the yard and sprinted toward the free-range chicken. Immediately, Mildred was in jet-chicken mode.
The race was on. The chicken fled, the dog pursued, and Leigh Ann trailed after them both, yelling at Barney, “Stop! Leave it! Shoo!” The words fell on deaf ears. Barney was in the zone.
Mildred fled from Barney across the yard, flapping and clucking in terror. She flew up the back stairs squawking and praying as she went.
“Save me, Jesus, save me.”
Barney, on the other hand, was having the time of his life, finally getting to herd something that wasn’t already penned in. As the two animals dashed and darted across the yard, Barney’s nose remained inches away from her few remaining tail feathers. He had found his purpose in life.
As my daughter chased them, she tripped on the stairs while in pursuit and fell on her rump as she grabbed for the horrified bird. Off Mildred flew—Barney’s hot breath on her nearly bald backside. Undeterred by her fall, Leigh Ann got up and continued the chase—afraid for Mildred’s life. Mildred fled to a spot beneath our camper. She huddled briefly under the wheel well, while Barney nipped and snarled at her—never actually biting—just scaring her cluckless.
Leigh Ann lunged again—Mildred darted back up the hill, wings flapping and lips screeching (Yes, chickens have lips.) Barney growled and chased, trying to herd her to who knows where. Flapping and clucking, she dashed to a covered area beside the back steps, and in utter defeat, cowered in the corner–head darting nervously about.
Whether it was fear or exhaustion, the bird finally allowed Leigh Ann to scoop her up and save her from the backyard beast. The race was over. Leigh Ann won. Mildred, poor bird, was safe. And Barney’s herding adventure was complete.
When Leigh Ann placed Mildred into her safe kennel away from her tormentors, the exhausted animal collapsed into a heap.
After a few minutes of recovery, long enough for her to get her breath, you could hear Mildred clucking to herself just within earshot of the other birds. “Man, I can never get a break. First I get my feathers plucked out day and night, then, just when I thought my luck was changing, and I was having a good ol’ time roaming in the yard, I got chased by that vicious monster that my masters call a pet. I swear, I almost had a heart attack. Life ain’t fair.”
The rest of the chickens just cackled.