Splotches Part Two

The good news is that Splotches showed up again. I went out to meet and greet the chickens the other morning and noted that sweet hen out near the green quonset hut coop a.k.a. the nursery area. Toey and the two adolescents—Snow White and Schwartzie—pecked about while Schtude looked in through the fence at Splotches, berating her for her disappearance. She turned her back on him and stalked, thereby displaying the fact that I was correct in my assumption that she is nesting somewhere. Broody as broody hens can be, she was back for a bite to eat. I ran into the house to tell Carl of the prodigal’s return and grabbed her orange necklace.

Backstory: during the time period that Splotches was boomeranging from there to MIA and back again, Carl and I had gone to Belletetes Hardware store. There we noticed a Bluetooth key locator that one can attach to one’s cell phone or keys. There is then an app—the Tile Key Locator—to download onto one’s phone and thereby you can locate said cell phone and keys when they go missing. On the assumption that the phone one has lost is not the one with the app but that’s for another day.

Need I mention that we thought the Tile Key Locator would be perfect for locating Splotches when she would go missing? We accounted for the hen being made of flesh and blood, not metal, by buying the aforementioned flexible key ring coil dubbed the hen necklace.

Splotches did not like the necklace when we placed it around her neck. She walked backwards. Looked down at it in horror. “Get this thing off my neck,” she seemed to say.

I didn’t like it either. Unlike cat collars, this coil did not have a detachment option. It brought to mind Flopsie who had gotten her foot tangled in the electric fencing the previous week. She and Splotches had both been missing that evening when it was time to lock up the coop. I wandered about, thinking they had been taken out by a hawk. But there was Flopsie, helplessly caught in the netting. While Carl directed, I held the hen, turning her around and around and around, eventually untwisting her foot from its bondage. I worried that Splotches would get herself in just such a tangle and thus removed the necklace from her neck. We set her down and watched as she contemplated the fence that pretended to hold her in. I walked around to the other side of the fence just in time to see her push through the gate.

“Now what?” Carl asked.

“I’m going to follow her until she goes back to her nest,” I replied. Carl headed back to the house. There was no way he was spending his day stalking a chicken.

She pecked about briefly. Eyed me. But she couldn’t bear the separation and soon enough she ran, her wings flapping, to the back set of solar panels where two foot tall grasses wave in the wind. Splotches disappeared. I approached the solar panels to find her nestled down, spread out, low and wide, over a nest of eggs. She blended in perfectly with her surroundings.

“Carl!” I shouted. Have I mentioned that chicken land has never a dull moment? We didn’t even debate the subject. Carl went for the dog cage while I opened the chicken run door. While he set up the cage, I got the hay. I spread a thick flooring of it in the cage, pushed and shoved it into a cozy nest. We then took a tarp and surrounded the cage to make the inside dark.

“Can a rat get in?” I asked.

“Nope,” Carl said.

“I thought you said they can get into really small places.”

“A rat isn’t going to eat a hen, Tory. And I wish it luck getting past a broody hen to eat the eggs.”

We headed to Splotches, Carl carrying a large bowl that I’d put some gloves in for cushioning. I picked up Splotches, being careful to remove the eggs held under her wings. I held her to my heart while Carl counted the eggs: nine. He put them in the bowl, careful not to jiggle them. We headed to the dog cage that had previously been used to break our broody hens. This time, though, Carl placed the eggs in the nest I had created and then I plopped Splotches into the cage. She hunkered down, not on the eggs. We left her there to figure it out.

“Are you sure a rat won’t get in there?”

“Splotches would win that fight.”

The stunning aspect of this whole scenario is that neither I nor Carl questioned whether to take the eggs from her. Probably because we knew she’d continue to fly the coop and we didn’t want to lose her. There’s something inevitable about the whole thing and, assuming we have a 100% hatch rate, do we really need nine more chickens? And what will the ratio of boys to girls be? What of Snow White (I hope she’s a girl) and Schwartzie (He’s pretty sure to be a boy)? Leave it to nature? What will be will be? Maybe with enough chickens, hens to roos, there will be peace on earth? I can dream right?

The reality check? At the climate march in Keene, a woman stood up and told the crowd that she had moved to New Hampshire a few years before from Oklahoma. She said there’s a lot of talk on the news of hot weather, temperatures in the hundreds, specifically 118 degrees. She said she wanted to describe that kind of heat so that we would understand what that means. She said when the temperature hits 118 degrees, absolute silence reigns. No crickets. No birds because they have either died or flown away. She said plants wilt, die in the heat and if you think going outside to water them will save them, you are wrong because the water steams the plants. Everything dies. It is hell.

That last sentence is my comment because the drum beat of horror that Greta Thunberg speaks of connotes the hell on earth that we have created. And so there is an element of crazy in all this life story. Hatching more chickens to our species destruction of life on earth. Where lies the responsibility? I point a finger, and three point back at me. I ask myself, what am I going to do? What part will I play?

Also at the climate march, Carl and I bumped into an activist friend who wondered why we had not attended Radically Rural. She seemed disappointed in us. I felt judged and immediately started making excuses. Then I realized there was no reason to make excuses. It had been a conscious decision. We have a lot of prongs in the fire. Carl and I are attempting to slow down, go deeper, focus. Everyone has a role. Energy to growing soils, this is not the time for us to point fingers. Rather it is time to hold out a hand, join hands, support and encourage. Nothing any individual does will be enough to save the planet but we must each do our part.

If Greta Thunberg’s speech at the UN doesn’t motivate people to figure out their role in all this, nothing will.

Apparently, the UN is doing nothing. So now what?

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