In the yard that used to be for the cats, I provide shelter for one tiny chicken. It scampers between my feet like it would with its real mother, and I must watch my every step. It’s growing feathers at a rapid rate and knows how to clean them and how to take dust baths in the box of dirt I gather for it every day. It knows to chirrup in alarm when it finds a bee on its water bowl and it runs to the shelter of my squatting form.
One day, when the dog is off on a walk with my husband and therefore not scratching at the cat yard gate, one of the big Australorps comes and notices the chicken. She strides up and down the fence, her head cocked for good vision through the eye on the closest side. Does she want to mother or destroy? It is impossible for my human mind, clunky with what-ifs, to decipher. The silkies, who are reputed to be good mothers, are too shy to come near, staying by the rooster who tap dances possessively around them.
In a few minutes, the Australorp gives up her striding. She’s the most obviously intelligent of our hens, the one who comes to the window at sunset demanding I bring out their bucket of scraps and put them to bed. She’s the one who leads the troop to new territories for foraging and who finds the flock shelter from a coming storm. I am sorry to see her lose interest. But what would I have done if she’d stayed?
fogged up with soap powder
bubble-burst on dirt
Written for Go Dog Go Cafe’s Haibun Wednesday “an encounter with an animal”