Thumbalina - A First Acquaintance Gone Bad
I put an ad in the local paper searching
for hens to take on horse poop patrol in my yard. Chickens are good about scratching through it, thus spreading it about.
Only one person contacted me so we made a date for the chicken exchange of $12 for five hens.
There's one hen I named Clarice, although I later renamed her Thumbalina,
and she's wasn’t much to look at. She was light red, had a fairly ratty-looking little hen comb, and was the breed
of chicken that is featherless on the neck and rump. She wasn’t the brightest chick in the bunch either.
I went around and around with the new hens Clarice, Grace,
Gal and Donna having quickly lost the fifth hen, Puff, to a raccoon. My guess was the new chickens were caged barnyard birds
not accustomed to free ranging and roosting like the new lifestyle I was providing for them.
They immediately took to my front porch railing and steps to overnight
(and poop) and this was just not going to work out. I positioned a wooden ladder up against a tree where even the laziest
or stupidest chicken should have been able to climb and roost, and the new girls needed to learn that.
After going several rounds with all four hens, which
meant chasing and corralling them, battling their flapping wings and distressed vocalizations, catching them and setting them
on the ladder, they would climb on up into the tree—except for Clarice. She would just sit wherever I put her.
For several nights in a row I would get the chickens
in the tree only to have them come down 20 minutes later. But finally, they got the hang of it and started roosting in the
tree—except Clarice. No matter how hard she tried she could not muster enough balance to master the ladder wrung closest
to the ground. She was a klutz.
night when they were all acting like idiots and freaking out about roosting, Clarice and Donna went on the lam. I found them
attempting to roost on the back porch. Of course, I was dressed in my most elegant attire of a yellow terry cloth short robe
and purple, sparkly flip-flops. I knew I had to nab them both at the same time or I would be running all around my house,
dressed in my best, certainly amusing the neighbors. I reached down and grabbed both hens by the legs.
As I carried them around the house, upside-down, wings
flapping and them fussing in really nasty tones, I realized I'd be in a pickle when I got to the tree. The lowest branch
was well above my head. I had Donna in my right hand and knew I could fling her up and she'd catch herself and climb,
which I did. However, Clarice would prove a tad trickier. I knew she'd practically have to be set in the high crook of
I switched her to
my right hand, being a very right-handed person, and braced myself for the extra flapping, squawking freak out that was sure
to follow the flinging. I lowered my head and closed my eyes as I swung Clarice above my head. I knew I'd have to use
my left hand to give her that extra boost and set her right. Blindly, I reached up to boost with my left hand with my right
hand still wrapped around her legs.
me say this—as an animal lover, and understander of their simple minds, their flight over fight natural reactions and
their need for human support—right then and there as my left thumb went where no thumb should ever go, all my love for
barnyard birds flew out of my head.
and I shriekingly squawked at the same time. She catapulted herself three branches up, pulling the plug, so to speak, as I
ran hyperventilating, bounding over dogs and dodging horses with my thumb stuck stiffly straight up as far away from my body
as I could get it. All I had on my mind was Clorox.
I leapt two porch stairs at a time, opened the back door so hard it practically came off the hinges, came to a sliding
stop at the kitchen sink and poured half a gallon of Clorox over my thumb. I scrubbed my thumb with a Brillo pad and dish
washing detergent, and then squeezed lemon juice on it. My breathing finally returned to normal. I managed a peek out the
front door where I saw Clarice, who was now roosted 15 feet up in the tree, and heard her telling her friends what had just
happened. She didn't sound very happy.
The next morning I opened the back door to go out and feed. As usual all the critters were congregated there waiting
on breakfast—except Clarice. I fed everyone and went in search of her. I found her still roosting in the tree even higher
than she was the night before.
chick, chick, chick," I said. She one-eyed me, head cocked, ruffled out her feathers, and boldly leapt from the tree
in the opposite direction of me—and she hit the ground, none to gracefully, running full out.
For about two weeks she avoided me like I
was out to get her or something, and to this day she's wary of my
presence. I decided Thumbalina suited her better than Clarice, so I renamed her.
I hope we both learned
that day—that Thumbalina can roost wherever the heck she wants to, and that I will never give a
chicken a boost ever, ever, again.
By Lyn Odom, copyright 2006