The Wandering Chickens
Normally, bathroom storage space is reserved for towels, toiletries, and hygiene products. In the mid 90’s, my dad also stored baby chickens in ours. Bubble baths were taken overlooking a box of peeping chicks cuddling under their heat lamp. My sister and I soaked blissfully unaware that this was not a routine American bubble bath experience.
The chicks were leftovers for sale from my Dad’s feed store down the road.Two chickens were kept .They were Rhode Island Reds,which as alluded in their name, have a dark red plumage. I named mine Josephina after my favorite my American Girl Doll. My sister’s was Henrietta, which was a pun my she came up with at 6, that took me until age 24 to understand.
Our house was on Route 14 in Royalton village. A road not meant for a chicken to cross, unless it wants to get smushed before reaching the other side. Cars frequently pulled in and out of our driveway as they stopped to shop at my parent’s garden business. The conditions were not safe for pea brained chickens to be roaming free.
However, my dad is a man of many talents,but a skilled carpenter he is not. Attempts to build a sturdy chicken coop occurred, but none that could keep these wayward chickens from escaping. So despite the risk, the chickens remained free range except for the snowy winters where they stayed warm in the greenhouse.
They became our poultry adventurers. Living completely oblivious to the fact they were supposed to remain on our property.They would run and hide under the neighbor’s porch like red feathered outlaws. Once, they jumped on Elsie Vesper’s car and stayed on for a quarter mile before hopping off like hobos abandoning a train. And despite the odds, they successfully did cross the road on multiple occasions without becoming chicken chunks. Upon notice, my parents would hurry and momentarily stop traffic until Henrietta and Josephina had safely crossed back.
My sister and I chased them around the yard and the gardens on weekends and after school. We scavenged for their eggs and told stories and drew pictures of our chickens like other kids did for their dogs and cats.
But after a couple years of life with the chickens, one morning my parents gathered my sister and I for an announcement. The chickens had to decided to move away. They enjoyed their stay with us, but simply it was just in their rambling nature to move on to a new place. It was as if they were wandering heroes from a folk song and their next verse had started. While a little saddened, the explanation for their sudden disappearance sufficed for my six year old self. It was several years later when i learned that the chickens did not tell my parents that they were moving onward. Instead, one morning my parents walked outside to discover a trail of bloody feathers. Our Rhode Island Reds were no match for a sharp clawed beast, a demise all too common for a country hen.
But with a touch of whimsy, when i reminisce on the chickens, I still prefer to think of them as alive and on the loose.