The Great Chicken Caper, Part I: Zazzles Lost, OR The Case of the Wrong Chickens

So, last Thursday we lost one of our chickens.

Wait, back up, let’s start a little earlier.

A little over a year ago, we got chickens for our backyard.

Aww, aren’t they cute. We raised Eris/Ares, Concordia, and Morgaine from chicks.

The reasons were complicated, partly about finding a source of fresh eggs (which I had recently experienced courtesy of the Havstad farm), and partially about having some unusual pets—and by the way, it turns out that they make wonderful pets. We began with three adorable chicks, two sexed Buff Orpingtons and one Rhode Island Red that, as I recall, the experienced chicken breeder believed was almost surely a female. Well, and as we discovered and the nice man from animal control confirmed, that prediction came out false. Exit Ares the Rooster.

Two hens, full grown. Only one of them (at most) will survive this story. (Picture courtesy Sabrina and a gratuitous Instagram filter.)

Our sweet hens Morgaine and Concordia grew up to be very sweet chickens. And there were cuddles and many delicious eggs and so on. Then this July, we had a house/dog/chicken-sitter (for whom I left very simple instructions), and during his watch, poor Concordia was hurried off this mortal coil by Eliza, our trained killer greyhound. Mistakes happen; it could have happened to anybody. (Really, it was an inevitable result of poor coop design and yard security protocols.) Exit sweet Concordia.

Okay, this is getting depressing. All of this is prolegomena to the fact that we recently bought four new chickens, to help cheer up a mournful Morgaine and fill our out flock. (Actually, rather than cheering her up, I think they brought in a cold that has had her sick for the last week and a half, but that’s neither here nor there.) We got another Buff Orpington, two Ameraucanas, and a Polish chicken.


The Polish was sort of an impulse buy, since she isn’t any good for eggs, nor are we planning to get into showing our fancy chickens. But she was growing on us, goofy and ditzy little thing. That ridiculous hairdo makes it hard for her to see anything. She makes this ridiculous little peeping sound. We call her “Zazzles.”

So, last Thursday we lost one of our chickens.

Zazzles, to be specific.

We came home from work at about 4:30 in the afternoon, and counted our chickens (no puns, please), and found her missing. Turns out, the lawn guys had left the gate to the side yard open, allowing her to escape. Surprising everyone, Zazzles of all the chicken, had flown the coop.

We scoured the neighborhood. We crawled through the neighbors’ bushes until we made them uncomfortable enough to ask us what was going on. We texted our friends down the street and had their whole mess of kids out searching for poor, lost Zazzles—their middle child, the animal whisperer, was climbing neighbor’s fences in search of her. Our friend Julie, who we were going to our Very Important Affair with came over early, with hair still wet, to help us look. I went to Kinko’s (er, FedEx Office) and made a “Lost Chicken” sign to hand out and post around the neighborhood.

This went on for a couple of hours, becoming progressively more hopeless (but a big thank you to the neighbor who called to tell us that Zazzles was almost assuredly dead by now). Finally, getting close to the wire on our Important Affair, we headed to the car intending to drive downtown, without time to clean up or change, just sweaty and tired and coming down from an adrenal rush. But as we got to the car, Sabrina’s phone rang: “I’ve seen your chicken,” the caller said, and gave us an intersection to head for (several streets away). We tore off to the spot, hopped out of the car, and took off down the street, crouched low, in chicken-hunting mode.

Suddenly, a car came tearing around from the intersection down the block, a window roles down, and a man yelled, “What are you looking for?” It was our friend Mystic Chaos, spotting us on his way home from work! He pulled over, hopped out of the car, and joined the search party. (He assumed we were on the hunt for a loose greyhound, but when he found out it was chickens, he was still in to help out.) We took off in different directions, Scooby-Doo fashion. I headed towards the yard of the corner house, and I spotted a flash of movement, and then some feathers, and my heart jumped into my throat. Then out of the bushes rushed a chicken. But… not our chicken? Some other chicken?

This… is not my chicken.

The chicken ran right up to me, and looked up at me, so I picked it up. It was a very friendly, sweet chicken, clearly quite healthy and well taken care of.

I called to Sabrina and the others, and we met back up, Sabrina’s and Julie’s quizzical looks matching my own. MC was quite puzzled to learn that though we had caught a chicken, it was not the chicken we were looking for. Just then, a second chicken charged from the bushes, clearly the pal of this wrong chicken. She was much less tractable than the first, and it took the four of us in some concerted effort to (a) keep the chicken from crossing the road and (b) catch it.

Eventually, Mystic Chaos stopped taking pictures and help us catch the second wrong chicken.

So, here we are with two wrong chickens. (And about this time, Julie discovers that we actually know MC, and he’s not just some extremely helpful stranger.) What is going on? Has the Universe seen fit to repay our loss with interest? Have the lawn guys, after several angry phone calls from Sabrina, attempted to surreptitiously assuage us with replacement chickens? Well, we’ve got no time to figure it out, so we put them in Julie’s car, drive them back to our house, drop them in the back yard, put out food and water, and head off to our event, where we are only on time thanks to good luck and reckless driving.

Continue to Part II.

Leave a Reply