We bought meat chickens. Six months ago, I would have looked at you as if you were crazy (and I would have meant it), had you told me that I would say that. Or do that. But we did. We raised up 25 little chicks from day one of their lives, took care of them diligently until about 20 weeks old, and now we have a freezer full of dressed birds.
Well. We have 24 of them. Ish.
About 10 weeks into raising them, we went out to their chicken tractor to find a very badly injured bird. He was our freebie from the hatchery (our orders always come with a couple extra chicks; every batch usually arrives with one or two that didn’t make the trip), and by that time, we could tell that he was a Polish chicken. (Polish chickens have feathers that cascade off their heads like Big Bird’s from Sesame Street.) The other roosters had cornered him and nearly pecked him to death, leaving a wide, open wound – think of the Friar from Robin Hood with his bald head on top and hair around the sides.
He looked so terrible (and we were kind of squeamish just looking at his wound). He had a halo of feathers remaining, so we named him, Beyoncè. He lived in a big rubbermaid box in our kitchen while I nursed him slowly back to health, and honestly, he seemed super happy with his new setup. But no one needs an indoor chicken. They are livestock, after all. After about four weeks (yes, FOUR WEEKS; what can I say? I was determined to save him), we moved him out into our brooder in the little barn, but he was all alone and I couldn’t stand it. I would let him out every day to roam the yard, but if I left the back door of the house open, he would walk in like a boss, albeit with a pimp limp, which we’re convinced is a result of a wee bit of brain damage from his near demise all those weeks prior.
Everything about this bird is wrong. He is stark white, so he is the first visible thing in the yard to any eagle, hawk, owl, or other predator for that matter. I had to “exercise” him to build up the strength in his legs so he could walk quickly and run if he needed to (I did this by holding him a little of the ground and making him jump down – chicken PT right there). Soon, we just stopped putting him back in the barn at night and just left him outside and resorted to yelling, “STILL ALIVE!” at any Beyoncè sighting during the day.
And so he lived under the porch.
Over the last 3-4 weeks, he’s staked his claim under the overhang of the little barn, and likes to roost at night in the hay. This past week, he’s even started to crow, which doesn’t sound like a crow at all, but more like the warble of that seagull in The Little Mermaid.
By any account, that bird should have died a million times over already.
But here is what I’ve learned from him.
Simple as that. He’s adapted. He runs around, fully exposed during the day, and interacts with our laying hens. He hasn’t been bullied by them at all, which is so surprising since he is so small. And the most surprising thing of all? Two days ago, we threw him into the chicken run with all 35 of our big chickens, and he challenged our rooster, Jim. Jim completely backed away and conceded, while Hank and I stood there with jaws dropped. Beyoncè stayed with them all day, all night, all the day next, but by the second night, he had somehow flown out of the run and returned to roost in his hay.
So any time you think that you might be too small, or the wrong color, or you walk funny, or you’re having a really, really bad hair day, just remember that you are still alive, and maybe for no reason at all other than you just don’t know any better or that someone took a chance on you that one time.
Now go get your crow on. Cockadoodledoo.