A few weeks ago, I drove around the Lowe’s parking lot on a warm, sunny Saturday, looking for someone I have never met. They advertised a few pullets for sale online, and we agreed to meet up so I could look them over. Eventually, we found each other, and I parked our old 86′ S-10 flat bed next to their nice, shiny, white Ford Super Duty.
And in a small cage in the back of that Super Duty were three 4 month old pullets and three 2 month old pullets and I immediately fell in love. They were panting a little from being in the sun, but each one had sleek, clean feathers and bright eyes. One by one, I looked them over and put each one in the small cage I had brought. The same cage we brought 5 piglets home in last year – but that’s another story.
We settled on a price, shook hands, and drove back to our respective farms. I had a new sexlink hen, two barred rocks, two buff orpingtons and a white rock pullet, and they were perfect. I had to stop and get gas and ended up moving the cage to the cab of the truck so they would be out of the sun…. and so I could admire them on the way home
I drove straight up to the chicken coop and set the cage down in the shade. Since they were so much younger than the other hens, I decided to put them in the smaller coop with the bantam pair. They would have plenty of low roosts to learn how to hope on, and access to a small yard. I had already bought some chick crumbles, and set that up while the pullets settled down and cooled off.
One by one, I brought them out of the cage and into their new home. I don’t know how long I sat up there with them, but it had to be quite a while. I can’t help it, I love watching them sing and scratch and peck. I held the littlest orpington for a while and she didn’t seem to mind a bit. She even fell asleep in my lap, and I was considering just hanging out all evening. Eventually, she woke up, shook off, and hopped down to peck around with her sister. Heading back down to the house, I already had names in mind: the three older pullets would be Daisy, Lulu and Frieda, the three little ones would be Missy, Peep and Flower.
We got quite a bit of rain over the weekend, and on Saturday I got caught in one of the worst hail storms I have ever seen. I pulled up under a Texaco station with several other cars and ate carrot sticks while we waited for it to pass. When I finally made it home, it was close to 10pm. I changed clothes and put on a headlamp and a rain coat and headed up to the coop to latch the barn doors.
When I got to the little coop, I counted, re-counted, and realized that little Flower was missing. I ducked inside the coop and looked around, but she wasn’t inside. She wasn’t in the yard either, all I could think was that the fox had somehow gotten her. I looked in the surrounding trees, but in the dark and in the rain, it was difficult to see anything. And I highly doubted she would have known to roost up there.
I made one more pass over the field, searching for feathers, and was about ready to turn back to the house, when something told me to look on the far side of the coop. There is a stack of old shingles and a few overturned buckets, but I rarely go on that side in the daylight. I swept my headlamp over the area and did a double take – there she was! I almost whooped with joy, she was sitting huddled on a bucket and soaked all the way through. I scooped her right up, amazed that I had found her before a hungry predator did.
Walking back to the house, I tucked her into my raincoat and felt her little body shivering. Who knows how long she had been out there – it could have been all afternoon, or a few hours. I tried not to think about it. We came inside and Zoe was all over us, she wanted to know why I brought a chicken in the house. Sadie was fast asleep, so I went straight to the half bathroom. I wrapped Flower in a dish towel and turned on the ancient heater that is set in the wall. It smelled like burnt hair, but I didn’t think she would mind.
I left Flower in a bundle of towels and crept upstairs to hunt for a hair dryer. Sadie and I aren’t really big into doing our hair, so I was very thankful that it worked. I had to fight Zoe to get back in the bathroom, and when I switched the hair dryer on, the heater shorted out and quit. I went to the kitchen, got an extension cord, and ran that from my room back to the bathroom.
Flower was still wrapped up, I sat with my back against the door and held her in my lap. She was very quiet and very still. Zoe was sniffing under the door and whining, but she would have to wait. I towel dried most of the water off of Flower, then turned the hair dryer on low and started warming her up. After a few minutes, she began peeping again, and I relaxed a little. Once I got most of her back dry, she stood up and ruffled her feathers, shaking her head and stretching her wings.
I was sitting cross-legged with towels and Flower in my lap, but eventually, she hopped up to my right knee so she was at eye-level with the wall heater. As she continued to warm up, she began looking around and chirping. I couldn’t help but wonder what a bathroom must look like from her point of view, or if she understood why it was suddenly so bright after hours of darkness and rain.
She let me stroke her chest, and even lift her wings to be sure she was completely dry. I didn’t want to overheat her, but I also didn’t want her to be damp and catch a chill. She wasn’t bothered by my fussing one bit. At some point around 11:30, I was satisfied that she was warm and dry. I set her back on the ground and went to the kitchen for a bowl of warm water. Instead of walking back up to the coop for some feed and scratch, I took a handful of birdseed and went back to the bathroom.
Flower was walking around, exploring and pecking fuzz off the rug. I sat back down and lifted her on my knee again, holding out the bird seed. She knew what to do – she went to town on that bird seed. She was laser focused on the bird seed and gobbled that handful right up. I went back to the kitchen, got another bowl, and brought it back to her. I set the bowl on the tile and she sat on the rug right in front of it, pecking away.
After a few minutes, she slowed down and stopped eating. I swapped the bird seed out for the water, but she didn’t seem too interested. I didn’t want to take her back to the coop without getting some fluids in her, so I cupped some in my hand and she started drinking from the drops falling from my palm. We did that several times, spilling enough water that it made its way between the tiles to my pants.
Finally, around 11:30, I was satisfied that she was warm and dry enough, and full enough, that she could spend the night in the coop with her sisters. I put on my rain coat again and tucked her inside and we went back up the hill. I woke everyone up again, but wanted to be sure she would settle in next to them so she could stay warm. I set her on the perch with her sisters, and she sidled over next to Peep and settled down. I made sure everything was locked up before heading back to the house, to my warm dry bed with my dog, relieved that Flower was back where she belonged.