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Front Page » December 4, 2001 » Opinions » When Chickens Climb Fences
Published 4,707 days ago

When Chickens Climb Fences


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By JAMES L. DAVIS

While I have always known that chickens could not fly, it was not until last week that I discovered chickens could climb fences. I wish I had known that.

While my parents were on their extended vacation I stopped by their house to make sure their chickens and cats had plenty of water and food. Not that I really needed to bother, my dad left enough food out for his animals that he could have taken a vacation of several months and they still would have had plenty to eat. But since both chickens and cats are incapable of using a hammer to break the ice from their water troughs, I made a habit of stopping by every morning to do that for them. The last thing I wanted was for my dad to come home and find his chickens with their beaks frozen in the ice because I failed to break the ice for them (although the mental picture of such a sight was tempting).

So every morning I would swing by their house and see how their animals were doing. When I stepped out of the car I was invariably met by their old tom cat, appropriately named Tom. He would greet me by intertwining himself around my legs until I shooed him away. I am not particularly fond of cats, but there is another reason for shooing this particular cat away. If he is of a mind to (and he quite often is) he will attempt to spray your pants leg with his own particular scent, thereby marking you as his property. He has tried this to a number of people over the years, including myself, so his reputation precedes him. And if you shoo him away before he can accomplish his spraying, he will simply go and find your car. On one occasion I was in my car, backing out of my parent's driveway when I noticed that my mother was laughing hysterically. What I discovered was that old Tom was attempting to spray the front of my car and as I backed out he backed up, not wanting me to get away without a proper spraying.

After shooing Tom away I would check on my dad's prize pet, Big Red. Big Red is a big, red rooster which my dad is particularly fond of, even though he can't tell you exactly why. Big Red is not allowed in the hen house anymore because, how do I delicately put this, he has a particularly amorous appetite, so much so that my dad became concerned for the health of the hens. They were losing feathers at an alarming rate.

So, needless to say, Big Red has an attitude, a particularly bad attitude you might even say. Since he can't be where he wants to be (in the hen house with the hens) he has taken it upon himself to be a bully. He is the attack rooster of the Davis family. If you come into my parents yard and show even the slightest hint of fear, he will spread his wings and chase you here, there and everywhere. One member of my family is chased about the yard almost every time she comes for a visit. She hates that rooster. She will remain nameless however, because although she may be afraid of the rooster, she is not afraid of me.

Big Red and I get along well enough I suppose. He knows I am not afraid of him and I know he is not afraid of me, so we leave each other alone. After making sure that Big Red and the cats have water and food I would go and check on the hens and gather the eggs. Big Red would always be in the vicinity when I did this because he hoped I would be foolish enough to leave the gate open.

After a week or so of this routine I noticed that the hens and Big Red weren't eating all that much of their food, but since my only real experience with chickens is at the dinner table, I wasn't sure what else to give them that they might like. But chance had it that I discovered another food which they were fond of.

While feeding the cats one morning I happened to spill a good portion of the cat food on the ground and before I could do anything about it Big Red had come over and gobbled it up. After that I started scattering some cat food in the chicken coop for the chickens, and they were grateful.

On the day that my parents were to return home I stopped by to check on the animals and paused to wonder if you feed chickens cat food could they possible become catlike? I wondered this because as I was going back to check on them I happened to notice that one of the hens was climbing the chicken-wire fence. I watched this hen for a time, not quite believing what I was seeing because, like I said, I was not aware that chickens could climb fences. But this hen was doing a fine job of it, so much so that I became concerned she might get out. So I circled around to where she was and there was Big Red, silently encouraging her and looking very excited that one of his hens might actually make the escape to the other side of the fence.

I shooed her off the fence and was treated with a particularly sour look by Big Red. He looked at me that way and I could tell he wanted to hurt me for my interference with the jail break, but I was not intimidated. "Get used to it Red," I said. "And no more cat food for any of you."

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