Coop is set up outside, filled with cozy woodshavings, waiting for its new inhabitant. Food and drink at the ready. I look at scads of Buff Orpington pics, and I’m having a heck of a time deciding hen or rooster. The backside is so floofy. There is a moderately sized comb and wattle…bigger than I would have thought on a hen. (Reminder: I know next-to-nothing about chickens.) Haven’t yet heard a clear ‘cock-a-doodle-doo’, but Buffy has been in a bit of a state of shock.
Take fluffy butt (that woulda been a good name) out to the coop for a couple of hours. It was getting colder, though. I was not quite ready to let Buffy sleep out in the back yard in the cold alone in her coop. So, back inside and into her kennel. Happiness suffused the air. Cats sniffed, foods scratched, water bowl tipped, bedding fluffed, lights out.
Morning the next day. Go about regular morning ablutions (dry hair shampoo, cleanish pants, desperate curling iron, coffee, middle-ager meds). Time for chicken check.
What’s that there? Yes! Yes! Yes! Our first egg! It’s a girl! I mean, Buffy’s a girl…well, a hen. Mazel Tov!
Buffy the chicken was named, official chicken feed was purchased, and a warm home in a dog crate with a cardboard Blue Apron box and a ton of shredded paper as nesting material had been provided. The chicken could be let out of its box (at this time, chicken sex was still an unknown) to wander around the kitchen. The cats, Hunter and Pocus, were curious about Buffy, but not aggressive in any way–they would all wander around at a safe distance from each other. Buffy was pet-able and would roost on my arm. This chicken had found a new home.
But an indoor chicken she could not remain. Chickens are messy, poopy things. They walk in their food and water, often tipping over the dishes. They drop waste bombs everywhere and anywhere with impressive frequency. As Jeff continued his journey in the Southwest with Team Rubicon, still reckoning bird placement, I’m online searching for backyard chicken coops.
This is not a small world, this world of coops. You wanna spend $50 on a coop? Here you go. $20,000 with custom lighting and architecture? No problem.
With one chicken and a small backyard, I go for the modest end of things. Not the most modest, but reasonable. Obviously I bought it from a chicken- or farm-focused website or some other specialty dealer. Nope. Wayfair. They had just what I need. (Sorry to plant their jingle in your mind.)
The accidental chicken wandered into a sort of urban spandrel…that little space between architectural details that allows room for creativity, art, and whimsey. Our little city lot is placed on its own tiny triangle between two streets and an alley. The chicken *must* have crossed the road to get here, though I do not know why.
But this was clearly a friendly, human-acclimated chicken. This was no random alley chicken. This was somebody’s pet.
And this pet chicken fit into our household at once. I had moved the chicken from the garage where I had initially sheltered her, into a dog kennel in the house, where I let her out intermittently and tried to keep her cage clean. My husband (Jeff) was out of town at the time, but he got chicken updates. I placed ads on the local Facebook neighborhood group, the regional lost pets group, ‘Next Door’ and ‘Everyblock’. I put a sign up in our Little Free Library. Has anyone lost a chicken?? As Jeff is driving through the Southwest helping out with Team Rubicon, both he and I are trying to figure out how to rehouse the chicken.
But, admittedly, I’m getting more attached. I make it over to Belmont Feed and Seed to buy some chicken food. The guy at the counter looks at a picture of the chicken and says he thinks it’s a ‘Buff Orpington’. So, she is now named: “Buffy”. You know there’s no going back from there. She’s named, she cuddles, she runs to me when she sees me. Nobody has claimed her from the various places I have posted. This will be my chicken. I will call her Buffy.
It was about 7 in the morning and I’m heading out to the garage on the way to work. Luckily, my brain wasn’t paying too much attention, otherwise I certainly would have jumped as the Fast Thing ran in front of me. Back brain is probably sifting through cat/squirrel/rat/sparrow/leaf pile/etc., so I wasn’t overly surprised when my actually thinking brain said “Jennifer,” she says, “Jennifer a chicken has just run in front of you in your northwest-side of Chicago gated up back yard.” Pause. Pause. Hmmm. Yeah. That’s a chicken. And it’s in my weakly gated back yard. That’s a pretty clean, non-smelly chicken. But it is currently homeless. And it’s cold out. And I’m going to be late for work. And it seems awfully friendly. So, in the moment I took my car out of the garage, shut the garage door and threw down a bunch of wild bird seed which the chicken seemed to like…a lot. At that time, I didn’t know if it was a rooster or a hen. Because what the hell do I know about chickens? I threw my fuzzy narwhal hat into the garage in case she might like to roost/nest/cuddle in it. Again…limited chicken knowledge. And that was day one of chickening.
Next time on the Accidental Chicken…Geographical Context