A city girl discovers the gift of chickens.
Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff/File
Sunrise touches my frost-rimed deck. Steam rises off the hot tub and drifts toward the chicken coop below, where a drawl of "prock, prock, prooooock" breaks the silence. The sound comforts like a mother's lullaby.
My four hens aren't chicks anymore, yet I still call to them with a soothing, "Here, chicky, chicky" as I tap the old ice-cream container filled with sunflower seeds. Across our large yard, their heads lift – two rust-colored, one gray and white speckled, the fourth a golden halo. Then my favorite Rhode Island Red collects her legs under her for a pell-mell dash toward me. The others follow, more cautious, less enthusiastic, but gathering determination as their momentum propels them to a screeching halt at my feet. The leader, Henny Penny, allows me to caress her soft feathers. She clucks approvingly and pecks at my shoe. I offer the seeds, and she buries her beak in them.
Each evening, with some coaxing, I lead the hens back to their chicken tractor (a movable, floorless coop) and herd them inside. Peep, the golden Americana, is skittish as usual, and I have to chase her until she finally gives up and squats, frozen in place. She tolerates my hands tucking her against my chest. She stays stiff until I place her gently inside the wire prison. "It's for your own good," I tell them, "so predators can't get you." But I know if I let them, they'd roost till dawn in the trees and probably be fine.