As a kid, we spent a significant amount of time rounding up cattle that had gotten out through gates left open.
I thought those days were over.
Today I let our dog Vinnie out during lunch. That aggravating dog, he always wants out just as I sit down to eat. I forgot about him until he started barking.
“Maybe I should let him in,” I thought.
“This couch is pretty comfy,” I thought.
“He can just stay outside for a few more minutes,” I thought.
Some time later he still hadn’t come to the door. Curious, I dragged myself to the deck and there he was staring back at me, with a look of utter bafflement, surrounded by chickens.
“Shit,” I thought.
“Not again,” I thought.
As an aside – I had just finished donating blood. Two of the main directives for post-donation care include avoiding vigorous exercise and heavy lifting. Keep that in mind as we continue.
Out I went, in my good sneakers (again) because with livestock roaming all free-range in the neighborhood, I didn’t feel like I had time to put on my muck boots. Also, those chickens are fast and proper chicken-herding attire leans more toward running shoes than muck boots.
Vinnie saw me coming and frantically darted back and forth as though he were Lassie, trying to tell me Timmy’s in the well or some shit.
You see, Vinnie has never herded anything more ambulatory than an empty peanut butter jar.
At least I learned he doesn’t eat chickens.
Two of the girls were still in the pen. Those are the goody two-shoes chickens – they take after Greg. They didn’t follow the rooster on his quest for freedom. Unfortunately, they were in the minority. All the others take after me.
You know, if we were their parents and all.
Now, I’ve discovered a lot of interesting behavior when it comes to hens who have a rooster. Wherever the rooster goes, the girls will follow. This is good, because it keeps them all together in one neat little flock as you’re moving around the yard. This is bad, because our rooster isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed and doesn’t know enough to find his way back to the coop even when he’s being driven directly to it. Not so bright, that one. (See also: Attacking the human who feeds you. See also also: Not knowing where the hell the coop is or how to get back in.)
Clyde squared off with me like he was ready to fight but either the look on my face or the kick across the pen he earned the last time he pulled that crap caused him to reconsider.
I picked up a rake and a survey stake (“Why do we still have survey stakes lying about willy-nilly in the yard?” I thought). The whole lot of us started toward the coop, me waving tools around.
Then Vinnie headed us off and decided to strike up a rowdy game of tag.
“VINNIE, YOU DIRTBAG!” I hollered.
Right about then I realized I forgot to open the coop doors to get them in – but that would risk the goody two-shoes coming out. I abandoned my implements and my flock of miscreants and rushed inside to get some food to occupy the goody two-shoes girls while I rounded up their more mischievous compadres.
I got two of the naughty ones separated from the rooster and they went right into the coop, thank you very much. In short order, I had the other one in, too.
“This is going better than I’d hoped,” I thought.
Only one more left – the rooster.
After chasing that dummy about the yard for ten minutes, miserably failing to capture him, I alllllllmost just let him go.
“FINE, go ahead, asshat!” I thought.
“Go ahead, get your dumb ass eaten by the neighborhood fox. Then I won’t have to listen to you crowing at 4:30 a.m. anymore,” I thought.
“Jackass,” I thought.
But in the end I just couldn’t do it. I spent another ten minutes chasing him up and down the back yard, up the steps, over the patio, off the wall, into the neighbor’s yard, back to ours, back to the neighbor’s, around the hoop house, you name it.
Still that jerk wouldn’t go into the coop.
Oh, he’d get close…he’d get right there and I’d think, “Now I’ve gotcha! Ass!”
But alas, it was not to be.
I broke down just a little.
“I SWEAR TO GOD I AM GOING TO EAT YOU, CLYDE!!!” I yelled.
“I’M NOT KIDDING!!!” I warned.
Then two of the hens got back out.
“Motherf___________,” I thought.
(Well, wouldn’t you?)
Again, they didn’t take long to round up. Honestly, I think they’re smarter than the rooster because they a) recognize their coop and b) know how to get in it.
Finally I determined that because the rooster kept running past the coop door, I’d have to blockade it so he’d have no choice but to go in…or up.
Knowing he is not too keen on the whole flying thing, I dragged a big bale of straw over to barricade his escape route. I’m pretty sure that right now that water-soaked bale weighs about 60 pounds.
So much for the whole ‘no heavy lifting.’ And don’t even ask me about the ‘no vigorous exercise,’ after I ran full-bore around the back yard for probably twenty minutes in total.
Lo, it finally worked, and Clyde is back inside. All is well. I even found an egg in the yard – who knows how long they’d been wandering.
But you’d better believe I’m going to have another talk with Ethan about ensuring the nesting box door is latched securely.