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by Caroline Downs

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Xena the Warrior Chicken

Posted 6/19/13 (Wed)

The husband left to work in Alaska, and we both knew he wouldn’t return before the new chicks, 21 laying hens, would need to be moved from their temporary home in the quonset to the barn.

“Be careful when you do it,” he told me. “You don’t want to lose a chicken in there.”

When the time came to relocate the chicks last weekend, his words echoed: “You don’t want to lose a chicken....”

I had the chicks’ section of the coop swept clean, with new shavings scattered across the floor. I filled the food and water containers and had a heat lamp plugged in and wired around a perch to secure its location.

That left moving the chicks themselves, four weeks old. I approached the stock tank quietly, a small box under one arm.

My plan was to catch five or six chicks and carry them to the barn, then return for more. I have done this often and never lost a chick.

When I reached into the tank the first time, one chick flew over the side.

I was somewhat prepared for this possibility, with wire covering both ends of the tank. However, this girl, with new white feathers, found her wings and the one gap in my plan. She didn’t recognize freedom at first, and stood next to the tank, wide-eyed as she looked at her surroundings.

I left her there, thinking I would let her calm down before grabbing her. I turned my attention to the others and boxed up six for the first march to the barn.

When I came back, my little Leghorn friend stood in the same place, so I reached for her. She stepped aside.

I reached again. This time, she ran.

Sure, her legs are about four inches long, but she could move, and I knew better than to chase her. So I watched until she stopped under some baling equipment.

I reached again. She ran again.

Thus began the dance as I followed her every move. She moved just quickly enough to stay ahead of me, crawling behind boards and around tools with grace while I bumbled over things.

Down one side of the quonset, along the back wall, and deep into the pile of snow goose decoys stacked there by the husband.

“Ahh,” I thought and easily scooped her into my hand.

Some thin pieces of twine were wrapped around her body, though, and as I worked to free her, she sensed a shift in my attention and burst from my cupped hand with a squawk and another dash to freedom.

I gave up, hoping to let her settle again, and carted two more loads of compliant chicks to the barn.

I returned the second time with a net and searched for my quarry.

This time, she made her way along the wall past the starting point at the stock tank to the corner near the door, where she huddled behind the coiled hose of an old air compressor.

The net and my quick reflexes were successful a second time, and I held the escape artist close, talking quietly. She would accept none of my reassurances, however, and again took advantage of a slight shift of hand muscles to explode from my grip.

I almost uttered a profanity then, which I try not to do around chickens who prefer a composed demeanor.

Instead, I laughed. “You are a warrior chicken,” I announced to the Leghorn, who was making her way beneath the baling equipment again. “Xena the Warrior Chicken.”

I watched Xena for a moment, then rounded up the remaining chicks. On my way back from the barn, I conceded defeat to the warrior, but I worried about her and set up a heat lamp and food in the stock tank in the hope she would return to her first home.

“One more try,” I resolved and set out to find Xena.

She huddled in a different corner of the building, perhaps tiring from her long-distance running efforts. I scooped her into the net and held her close. I planned take her to the barn that way, but then I feared she might choke.

She squawked and bawked and flapped with all the might she could muster while I separated her from the net, but this time I was prepared for her fierce onslaught.

Nearly two hours after I started the whole chick relocation process, I released Xena into the coop. She did not go quietly, but jumped from my hands and flew to her flock, protesting loudly until she landed.

I think I know who is going to rule the roost.