To start this story properly, you have to understand that my parents are chaos magnets. Accept this and move on; I have, and it makes life simpler.
My parents called me a few days before my monthly visit to their house, where I do odd jobs: gutter cleaning, patching roof holes, running errands, helping with some decisions like where to eat dinner and whether they should sell their home and move in to an assisted living community – that kind of thing.
“Can you take these chickens that showed up here?”
Beats last month’s question: “how are you at spackling?”
Turns out, the next door neighbors had been feeding some “cute little birds, like rock doves or something,” but they were going on an extended holiday from before Thanksgiving right through Christmas. They wanted my parents to continue throwing corn to the “cute little birds.”
Which were bantam chickens, three of them. My dad said fine, hopped onto the Internet, and researched bantams. Two hours later he had five sacks of feed, a stack of corn cakes, a jar of meal worms, and a shovel.
“What’s the shovel for?” my mother asked.
“They dig into the ground to make nests for themselves and it’s frozen so I thought I’d dig a couple spaces up for them.”
My mother secured the shovel, and my dad tossed corn all over the driveway. The trio took up residence in the thick holly bush just beyond it. All was well (and I was blissfully unaware of the poultry presence at the parental palace) until one day there were only two.
Searching proved useless. Not even a feather remained. That’s when Dad called. “They’ll get eaten. Can you take them?”
My trip to the parental home was at the beginning of a travel gig for work; I wouldn’t be back home for six more days. And couldn’t really see the chickens waiting patiently in the car or hotel for that long so….
We hatched a plan. Dad would try to catch them on Friday, the day I was going home again, and I would come back and get them before heading to Chez BeckWelch.
He called Friday morning. They beat the bushes, searched the hedges, but the scrawny little things were nowhere to be seen. “They must have been listening on the phone line,” my dad joked—and then thought about it and went out and yes, the little miscreants were roosting up in the magnolia tree that intertwined with the phone lines, just above his head in the front yard.
“Maybe Sunday?” Dad said to me. I said sure, figuring this was never going to happen.
My first full day home from the long week of work travel, I dug into some domestic chores and had almost forgotten about the potential Chicken Run until the phone rang about noon.
“They walked right into the trap following me with a piece of corn cake. We can meet halfway.”
Halfway, when you are trying to negotiate with a father who is 1) hard of hearing 2) convinced he knows all the exits between Michigan and Florida and 3) eager to get the job done meant I drove two hours and he drove one, but we did both find the correct Cracker Barrel. Which is something of a miracle since he can’t actually work his mobile phone.
We parked around back and he handed me the caged chickens. The pair were peeping loudly in their fear, so I assume the people who watched the exchange figured the restaurant had run out of chicken and called a local farmer. No one looked concerned.
Home I drove with the now-quiet bantams, and introduced them to their new friends, the Leghorns. Leghorns outweigh bantams about 2:1, so we left the little girls in a cat carrier overnight to let them get used to the co-op, er, coop. And avoid getting sat on.
Today the new girls are running around the yard, investigating brush piles, digging pits, and that perennial favorite of chickens everywhere, pecking the hosta beds to death. Oh well. They are cute, the new girls, and our four bigger hens are pretty much leaving them alone. So far so good. Chicken Run: The Holiday Adventure has not turned out to be a horror film.