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Monday, September 17, 2012

Henry the runaway chucker.

The Farmer managed to keep his pheasants alive this year. Well, most of them, anyway. They are quite difficult to keep alive when you first get them, each baby bird the size of a toonie, because they like to burrow under the bedding that you lay in the coop. We recycle everything around here, so the bedding is dry hay that was scooped out of the bottoms of feeders. The hay is the same colour as the birds. It’s pretty easy to step on one or two in the course of filling their feeders each day.

The wee birdlings are also very sensitive to any kind of draft or damp. We hang blankets in the windows and make sure the door is shut and latched.

The last time the Farmer tried to grow pheasants, a skunk or a raccoon (not sure which one) came along and killed them all. It must have been some kind of Houdini, whoever it was, because the only point of entry to the coop besides the door is a tiny crack between the logs in the back corner.

This year the crack is covered with chicken wire. No one is getting in and no one is getting out, except through the door.

The pheasants and chuckers like to hide, so the Farmer put a big branch in their coop. Now all the leaves have dried and fallen off and it isn’t such a good hiding place any more. Time for a new branch.

When the Farmer slowly lifts the latch and goes into the coop (an old heritage log barn) to feed the birds, they all hide their heads in a “if I can’t see you, you can’t see me” ostrich maneuver—until the other day, when they decided to try something else.

The Farmer went into the coop with a pitchfork full of dry hay for new bedding. The birds all shuffled into the farthest corner and turned their heads to face the corner.

Except for Henry. Who is Henry, you ask? Well, according to my husband, Henry is the one who either drew the short straw or just had the most adventurous personality, because he was elected to make a bid for freedom on behalf of the group.

As the Farmer stepped into the coop and prepared to pull the door closed behind him, Henry the lone chucker flew straight up and at the man’s head. The Farmer ducked, as predicted by the mischievous, conniving birds, and Henry flew out the open door to freedom.

The Farmer took a quick glance at the other birds to confirm that they were innocently cowering in the corner. Then he gently put the forkful of hay down and stepped back outside. There was Henry, flying like a maniac in no particular direction, shocked and amazed by the brightness of the sun and expanse of open sky.

Seeing that he would not be catching the runaway chucker anytime soon, the Farmer went back to the business of covering the coop floor with hay, filling the feeders and checking the water supply. Then he went back to the house, and told me all about being attacked by his game birds.

“I do believe you have just written your own column,” I smiled. The Farmer doesn’t like to read this column because it is quite often about him.

After just one night on the outside of the coop, Henry must have been having second thoughts about freedom. When the Farmer went out to feed in the morning, there was Henry, wandering around the edges of the coop, conversing with his friends through the chicken-wire windows.

“Did you let him back in?” I asked.

“Oh no, no, no,” said the Farmer, shaking his head. “That’s probably phase 2 of their plan. I open the door to let Henry in and they all fly out at my head. I’m not that dumb.”

No, he’s not that dumb. But he sure is cute.

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