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The exciting world of chicken-sitting is underrated

And now, in the words of Monty Python, for something completely different: I recently became a spectator to my neighbor’s free-roaming chicken, FYC (Front Yard Chicken), introduced here a few weeks ago.

With NASCAR and golf the only sports available these days, you’d be surprised how exciting chicken watching becomes. Hens are actually chocked full of personality, which largely goes unappreciated.

With Ken and Barb making a necessary trip (let’s make that perfectly clear) they asked whether I would collect FYC’s daily egg. That’s all my duties entailed. It’s been several orbits since I had chickens and the joy of collecting eggs, plus I’m staying home a lot. I leaped at the opportunity.

Barb told me the day before they left that FYC had taken to laying her egg later and later — 4:32 that day, so not to worry about coming over early. I didn’t.

I found that chickens are among the simplest of creatures for which to sit, at least on a short-term basis. But, taking her welfare seriously, I felt I should keep an eye on her. My kitchen window looks across to her grazing spots. I’d never known a chicken to roost and lay eggs from atop the back of a lawn chair, but this apparently was her choice. I looked forward to egg-gathering.

I finally got a close look at the egg shuttling device Ken fixed up for FYC’s idiosyncrasy. After figuring I’d given her time to deliver, I headed over for the goods. Though I had not actually witnessed her aboard, I noticed telltale feathers. A foam rubber chute cushioned the drop from the chair perch leading down to a waiting box of shredded paper with a felt pad, or mitt, if you will, in the center. A chicken should feel like a queen with a setup like that. But there was no egg.

I went about my business and checked in about 4:00, still nothing. At 5:30 I made a final attempt at retrieval, but she left me empty-nested. I knew there were times when even chickens needed a break, so I figured if she hadn’t fulfilled her destiny that day, she’d be at it all the earlier the next.

Thursday morning dawned, and while I fetched the paper, made Oliver’s and my breakfast, and set the coffee to perk, I looked out the window for my free-spirited charge. As suspected, I saw a plump reddish gold mound on the chair top. I grabbed my binoculars to make a positive I.D. and Front Yard Chicken sat poised for action.

I went about the morning, checking on her now and then, not expecting to witness the big roll-down. After taking her time, I noticed she’d vacated. I set out to do my job and retrieve the prize.

She was scrounging bugs and other tidbits in her yard as I imagined tomorrow’s omelet. I envisioned what it would be like to come upon the lovely pale blue ovoid treasure Barb had described. But when I got there, the nest box was bare, so I thought they were having me on.

Perhaps she missed her resident caregivers. It’s not as if they had a relationship. I mean, they do build egg chutes for her and feed her bowls of grain and oyster shell and keep a bird bath filled with fresh water, and maybe serenade her, I don’t know.

We all adore watching her chase the resident crows and deer from the place. Barb speaks of her in loving tones, telling me FYC puts herself to bed about 7:30 each night by flying high into an evergreen, though yesterday I caught her running around well past. But she has no connection with me, and that may be the rub. I’m taking a break from FYC. Her real folks return tomorrow, and I will make another attempt or two. You will know within the next two sentences whether she rewarded my diligence (cue Jeopardy music).

FYC left me with a big goose egg. Maybe it’s time to call the chicken whisperer. Or a shrink for me.

Postscript: That dang chicken waited until I hit “send” to whisk this column off to my editor, then she hopped back up and promptly laid an egg. Sort of like I do from time to time.

Peggy Dover is a desperate freelance writer. Reach her at pcdover@hotmail.com.