After a rare day away from the home office, it’s a treat to come home to roost. To the sounds of the neighborhood dogs barking in ripe anticipation of their owners’ return (well, actually, to the knowledge that their incessant barking could only help my case by drowning out Mabel’s anxious clucking), to the billowing breeze casting my lemon tree blossoms around the yard as the sky dims and the pink clouds glow with pink luminescence.
Mabel has been uncharacteristically quiet since I’ve been home; could it be that she has squawked herself into silent oblivion with no response from the home team? Could it be that she has actually been trained to close the beak, realizing in her little chicken brain that it does not warrant random delectable treats during the day?
As I drove home tonight, visions of angry neighbors mobbing the meshed-in run with threats of tossing my avian friends on the grill dance through my mind. Shut your beak! they holler in a frenzied army of chaos, butcher knives and grill implements waving madly in the sun. City Code swings by, Official Complaint Report Pad in hand, furiously scribbling neighborhood complaints with their sharpened No. 2 pencils. Dingy yellow crime scene tape borders the sunshine-yellow coop with warnings not to pass through the area lest you contaminate all possible chicken-guilted evidence against the homeowner.
But no, none of those things happen. The drive is clear of chaos, the yard is quiet. Children blindly play in the streets. (I narrowly avoid backing over one of them in my anxiousness to get in the house.) Could we have bought another day of happy chicken domesticity in the backyard of St. Pete? Could it be so?
The flock is quiet, pecking around the run. They barely glance at me as I happily chirp my way around their coop, handing out an evening treat to fill their craws and ensure a healthy delivery of droppings on the evening’s newspaper (placed strategically underneath their roosts). Pasta noodles, a bit of freshly-picked grass, a small bowl of oatmeal-sprinkled vanilla yogurt (must keep the calcium levels up for strong-shelled eggs!), and a few bits of corn scratch. They seem happy. And quiet! Have the gods answered my prayers? Tomorrow will tell. And the next day, and likely the day after…
And there’s a perfect turquoise-shelled egg in the nesting box. Thanks, Mabel! You’ve bought yourself another day on the farm.
But in the meantime, it’s dusk, and this means it’s time for the chickens to roost. Mabel starts the migration up the ramp, stops briefly on the platform and cocks her head down to glare at Goldie and Marguerite. Don’t make me call for you, I’m sure she says. (I second that.) It annoys her to no end that she has to wait on their plump, feathery buns to join her on the protective roost of the coop each night.
Without a peep, they’re up after her, and after a slight bit of chaos while they determine the proper roosting order in the coop, all is beautifully, thankfully, blessedly quiet, and I look forward to another day of mother henning.