What do my chickens do when I’m gone all day? What WILL they do when I go for a weekend? A week? The fear in my gut of their decibel-breaking squawks — though occasional — is enough to give any Mother Hen cause to pause when planning trips.
Being a new hen owner in chicken-shy St. Petersburg has its pressures. There’s a constant need to set a good example of “the ideal pet that gives back” without drawing the ire of the depressed and criminal neighbors with nothing better to do than get back at me for three years of dog-barking complaints.
At this hour of Noon on a gorgeous Friday, it’s almost impossible to keep from walking out into the beckoning sun and give the girls a handful of cooked spaghetti noodles. But I cannot! For I am in hour four of The Experiment to uncover what my hens do when I’m “away.” And… so far, so good. Except for a few beak-billowing episodes around 8:00 a.m. (Mabel and Goldie announcing to the world that — what? — they liked their nice perch outside? Who knows.) I sprinted out there in my flannels and waved the Hen Training spray bottle in a bold and imposing threat. “Keep it up!” I whispered in a venomous hiss reminiscent of a mother shushing her unruly batch of crumb-snatchers in church. “You’ll get this! I mean it!” Mabel cocked her head to the side, mid-grooming, and I swear she winked at me. They were quiet.
They’ve been quiet since then. Four whole hours. Even writing about it scares me without tapping my knuckles on wood for good luck.
The occasional crow flies overhead and emits a hoarse “caw” every now and then, jolting me upright in my office chair (not unlike a startled chicken). The neighbors’ dogs bark here and there, eliciting a strangely-thankful feeling in my conscience. Yeah! Bark! Strengthen my case! A huge sigh that it’s not Goldie testing her new lungs or Mabel finishing a training session in how to squawk loudly. Sadly, even Marguerite — perhaps because she’s a new “mother” popping out one tiny egg a day — is trying out her beak. (Random side note: her voice is low and deep, and perfect, I think, for a chicken nicknamed “Marge.”)
Stay tuned, for I’m sure there will be updates on this story. For now, I skulk around my house in dark hooded sweatshirt and on slippered feet and prepare my lunch in quiet. If they hear me, The Experiment is all over.
Four more hours!