Sunday, November 29, 2009
An unexpected bird
I got to the park early Saturday morning and headed down toward the lake, hoping I'd see the big flock of juncos that usually feed in the tall weeds near the water. The juncos continue to boycott my feeders, but at least they let me enjoy them on neutral territory. As I got near the lake I saw something moving in the grass up ahead. It was white with a vivid spot of red. My first thought was Oh my god, that's a chicken, but I immediately contradicted myself. It couldn't possibly be a chicken. What the hell would a chicken be doing miles from the nearest house? It was probably a bag of trash some lazy fisherman left behind.
But no, it was, in fact, a chicken--a white Leghorn rooster, to be precise. He was pecking around in the grass, but he seemed a little uncomfortable and disoriented. He fled when I approached, but didn't go far, just hunkered down about 20 feet away. I doubt he made his way to the lake by himself. Domestic ducks and guinea fowl will wander far from home, but as far as I know, chickens generally don't. If I'd seen him closer to town, I'd assume he had escaped from one of the Mennonite farmers who sell chickens on the roadside, but somebody must have deliberately carried him to such a remote place. Most likely, he was nabbed out of someone's yard and dumped, either as a prank, or maybe by an irate neighbor who was tired of his crowing.
I was certain he'd be a coyote's dinner last night, but this morning he was still there, in almost exactly the same spot. He seemed even more freaked out than yesterday. He was hunched down in the grass and kept absolutely still until I was almost on him, then he ran a good distance. I noticed he'd lost his tail feathers, so maybe he had encountered a predator and escaped.
It's a sad predicament for the bird. He's pretty much doomed. Even if I could catch him, which is doubtful, he'd be no safer at my house than in the park. There are coyotes all around my place, not to mention the free-roaming neighborhood dogs. If he's still there in the morning, I may ask the park staff if they can rescue him, though I don't know how interested they'll be. A stray chicken doesn't rate very high on the sympathy meter.
(The photo is a Leghorn hen--wrong gender, but I like her attitude. You can see some Leghorn cocks at My Pet Chicken.com.)