When we left off in Part I of this tale, we had lost a chicken, found two totally unrelated chickens, left them at our house, and sped off to some event.
When we returned later that evening, we tried to figure out what to do about these random chickens, at least for the night. Our dogs go out into the back yard regularly, and we’ve establish the tensions in chicken-dog relations already. We found the random chickens perched for the night, one on top of our secondary chicken coop (really a dog crate), the other in our boxwood tree, with a death grip on one of the branches. (The one on the coop was the friendly, biddable one, while Little Miss Death-Grip was the one that was so hard to catch in the first place.) Since there were three of us, we managed to guard the chickens from the dogs when they went out, decided more or less to let the chickens stay where they had settled in, and deal with it in the morning.
Morning came as usual (take that, Hume) and the wrong chickens were running around the backyard happy as you like. With the dogs needing their morning constitutional and the vague sense that we should try to find the owner of the mystery chickens, we set off with our morning coffee and dogs on leashes, headed back towards Ground Zero of the chicken mystery.
Having discussed our strategy en route, we decided that Sabrina would knock on doors while I kept the dogs at a safe distance. Starting with the home from which the mystery chickens burst forth from the bushes, Sabrina proceeded to ask whether they belonged to the neighbors, or if the neighbors knew of anyone nearby keeping chickens, or if they had seen a chicken that looked like a tiny Big Bird or Phyllis Diller (RIP). After knocking on 6-7 doors, Sabrina discovered:
- A grumpy old woman.
- A young (sounding) man who refused to open the door—she had to speak to him through the peephole.
- A dwarf who was also a hoarder, who owned about half a dozen small dogs (like dachshunds or corgis).
- That only about half of the neighbors from that sample worked or were otherwise occupied during the day
- That everyone surveyed was mystified by the fact that people in our neighborhood keep chickens, and that all little persons surveyed were vaguely hostile about the matter.
Somewhat discouraged, we returned home.
Let me just put this series of events into context for a moment. This was a Friday, 10 days before classes began, the very day that our daughter Esther returned mid-afternoon from two months with her family in Long Island. A big day, to say the least. And here we are, walking the neighborhood in what is becoming late morning, looking for the owners of the (wrong) lost chickens.
So, back home, we decided that we really couldn’t have these mystery chickens running free in our back yard. Commandeering another dog crate (http://mysweetdogs.com/top-5-dog-crate/), we constructed a tertiary coop, to keep these chickens separate from our main flock, as well as from Morgaine, who was in sick chicken quarantine. Of course, we have all the materials to do it up right: a makeshift roost, a spare feeder, cardboard and hay to line the bottom (we had to struggle with the waterer a bit). We get these chickens situated in the coop, where we can let the dogs out in the yard, and try to figure out what the rest of our day looks like.
Not five minutes after getting these new chickens settled, Sabrina got a phone call, exclaimed something I couldn’t understand, and dashed out the front door! Huh? As I caught up with her, she was having an excited conversation, and apparently someone down at the end of our alley just came home to find a chicken in their garage!
We came around the corner to the driveway of the house, and we saw an old fellow in a pink polo staring out the window at us. As we walked up, Sabrina waved nervously at him, and his head disappeared and the garage door opened manually—about six inches. The man said something about being worried that the chicken might run out through the opening door. This of course left the puzzle about how we might actually retrieve the chicken. After some weird negotiation, our neighbor finally opened the garage enough for us to duck in.
There was Zazzles, sitting under a chair in a pristine retirees’ garage.
Sabrina walked over and picked her up, and Zazzles hopped right up on her shoulder and snuggled up to her, as if to say, “Oh, thank god.” The man had muttered something about our “other chicken” that I didn’t understand, while two women (his wife and daughter?) came into the garage, clearly pleased to have reunited us with out chicken, one of them carrying a copy of our Lost Chicken sign. (“I saw your sign!”) But it comes out that another neighbor had sent an email to the Homeowners Association list-serve (which we aren’t on) about her missing chickens, and that while the younger woman had called us, the older fellow had called her.
As we’re standing around the driveway, Sabrina trying to explain that we’ve also found these missing chickens, our neighbors trying to get us the number for their owner, a white SUV (the standard-issue vehicle for the suburban moms of North Dallas) zoomed into the driveway and screeched to a halt. A woman jumped out and her face immediately fell: “That’s not my chicken!”
“We’ve got your chicken,” Sabrina tried to explain.
“I’ve had the worst day!” says the wrong-chicken lady, clearly unconsoled and near tears. “My father is sick, and my mother has been in the hospital, and… That’s. Not. My. Chicken.”
“No, no. We have your chickens,” Sabrina reiterated. “They’re at our house!”
Eventually, Sabrina made it through to our newfound bird of a feather vis-a-vis chicken ownership, Katherine, and convinced her to follow us to our house. So we proceeded down the alley, Sabrina leading w/ Zazzles on her shoulder, me following, and Katherine creeping behind us in her white SUV. It was awkward.
Katherine was SO happy to see her girls, Annie and Sue, and then to tell us in detail all the facts about their lives, her crazy life, all of her other chickens, about her dogs and their relationship with the chickens, and so on, and so on, and so on. She was super nice, but also super excited to have someone to talk to about all the hectic things in her life, and remember, we’re now only a few hours away from having to go pick up Esther.
We learned all the details of how, exactly things happened on her end. It turned out, because she had to take care of sick parents, that Katherine was away from home all day, and during the day, one of her dogs had chewed a hole in the bottom of her fence, a hole Annie and Sue were happy to go exploring through. We happened upon Annie and Sue a full 12 hours before Katherine noticed they were missing, as she came home after dark and just locked the chickens up. (I’m happy to say that standard protocol here now involves a head-count at bedtime for all animals.) Only when the morning came did she discover, to her horror, that Annie and Sue were missing. Luckily, far from being in danger, they were maxing and relaxing in our back yard while we tried to figure out what in the world to do with these strange chickens.
So, after fetching a too-small box from her car, stuffing Annie and Sue in, and then proceeding to continue to talk our ears off some more, Katherine was on her way with her chickens, we had all of our chickens, all the animals were in their places, and everything was right with the world. On hearing the good news, Andy declared it Zazzles Day.
At the conclusion of this tale, I would say we were maybe 3 hours out (maybe) from Esther’s big return. Our original plans for the day, thrown askew by the Case of the Missing and/or Wrong Chickens, was to hit Costco to do a bunch of shopping to stock up for Esther’s arrival. (Esther is a pre-teen eating machine, as those of you who have ever seen her on Taco Night can attest.) Even though our schedule was much compressed, everyone still agreed that it was an excellent idea to try to get our shopping done at Costco on a Friday afternoon before driving out to DFW for a flight arriving at about 3:30pm. Yeah.
So, we go to Costco, spent about twice as much as we needed to and three times as much as we could actually afford, got a call from our neighbor who was at our house with his kids while we were checking out, rushed home, put everything away in a hurry, tossed the neighbor’s kids in the car, and rushed off to the airport…
And found ourselves in stop-and-go traffic on the dreaded 635. Stop. Go. Stop. Go. Stop. WHAM. We’re rear-ended from behind after stopping (quickly but safely) behind the car in front of us.
Rear ended. On the 635, during rush hour. In the fast lane. With our neighbor’s two kids. With our unaccompanied minor daughter 30 minutes from arriving on the cut-rate airline.
Long story short, we were fine, our car was bent up but apparently all systems go, and though the poor woman who hit us had her airbag go off and was leaking radiator fluid all over the road, she was also basically fine. The DOT workers who are omnipresent along the 635 were very helpful, offering everyone water, calling someone to come put out cones, and helping us get fire rescue and cops on the scene. We were quickly dismissed by the cop who wanted us off the road, and off to the airport with adequate time to collect Esther. But it was close.
So, Esther is fine, the neighbor kids are fine, Morgaine has pretty much recovered, and Zazzles is not just fine, she’s FABULOUS.