How to Catch a Flock of Feral Fowl

Sometimes when you order chickens, you are sent the wrong breed, variety, gender, or whatnot. So, when you order slow and steady Cornish Rock crossbred broiler chickens from an unnamed hatchery, instead you will receive some beautiful, flighty, and high strung purebred white-laced red heritage Cornish birds. While these birds are a lovely addition to your farm, you will find that they do not grow at the unnatural and alarming rate that the broilers do, thus leaving your farm market customers without fresh free-range chicken for a little while.

Because your customers are understanding, they are okay with missing a few weeks of chicken deliciousness, and the pretty Cornish’s lives are spared. Despite your parent’s concerns, you decide to keep these lovely young birds because, well, the current layers are approaching the age of old folk’s homes and may begin receiving their pensions soon, so replacement layers might be nice. Never mind that the websites all state that Cornish are not layers, ignore the fact that they are noted as being poor foragers, and forget the fact that these birds aren’t designed for cold weather habitation and your barn is not heated.

You embrace your new heritage chickens. You devise a business plan of hatching eggs from these rare birds and invest in a very cheap and unreliable incubator (it was on clearance, what can you do). After all, if you hatch enough of them, they might make nice meat birds for next year!

They grow. And grow. And grow. All of a sudden, they morph from adorable little half-grown widgets to three-quarters-grown monstrosities with long legs and teenager proportions. Worst of all, they have developed a habit of springing out of their brood box and racing across the floor, earning the name of “Crazies”. They will never be referred to as the Cornish again.

After a couple of months, the Crazies graduate from home living to the great outdoors. The young men grow into very handsome roosters. The most beautiful one is viciously murdered by the Nitwit Neighbor’s black standard poodle, so the second favorite remains as the superhot stud and the rest are sent away to a nice freezer somewhere. The young ladies are incorporated into layer pen to promptly enter womanhood.

Unfortunately, these birds will not enjoy womanhood. The sister wives band with their leader, Big Red, and literally fly the coop. A large pine tree in the yard becomes their new home. Night after night they roost in the tree. They are impossible to catch and begin to lay eggs, quite prolifically (take THAT Wikipedia), under the processing shed, right out of reach. Winter is approaching, and the months long outdoor party must soon end.

The most obvious approach would be to net them, but these are no ordinary birds. These chickens are masterminds of the art of evasion, like ninjas, or Taliban officials, or attractive men at the bar. They begin to recognize the net, and they flee at its approach, shimmying up the tree and squawking at the squirrels to get out of the way, the Reaper is approaching with her mesh gate to Hades.

There is only one solution. Call over the smallest sibling, Beans, and put her on the tallest sibling, Lars. Hand Beans the net, and line them up beside the tree. Brave your fear of heights and take your first steps into the chicken tree. You hear Big Red announcing your presence to the clan, which means you are getting close. When you see the hens, be sure to keep silent, for they will surely flee at your approach. Don’t even cry when you notice the pine sap on your pants, and please do not wet yourself when you glance at the flimsy branch holding the majority of your weight. Instead, creep closer to the branch holding most of the chickens. With a loud, “Woohoo!”, alerting the siblings below, shake that branch as hard as you can. Chickens will spring out of the tree like fireworks, and Beans will catch them in the netted gate to Hades as Lars tries desperately to stay upright. At least three birds will be caught today, most importantly, Big Red has been captured.

Cattle Cait – 1
Crazies – 0

Assorted Cornish hens, plotting their next escape out of the commune.

Published on Feb 6, 2013

Grit Magazine

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