A Supermoon, Snow & A Super(?) Hen

I’ve delayed writing for a week now, much to my chagrin.  So much I had in mind and now most of it lost. But, I am persisting.  The Full Moon Super Moon was a week ago on Dec. 3. That was a Sunday and it snowed most of the day, plunging into single digits temps by the early evening.  I wondered if the clouds would clear for a Full Moon viewing and was pleasantly surprised when I stepped out around 1 a.m. to view the  Moon.  There was a large rainbow tinged halo around it but it was a big Full Moon casting its icy light across snowy fields.  The contrast of white and black, some grey, made the stillness and freezing cold air a scene of suspended animation.  An hour later, when I still could not sleep, I returned to the window and noticed that the light casting over our snowy acreage was a very pale blue.  Magical and comforting despite the cold I did not venture out into for a second look.

But, the next morning, when I went out to free the 4 hens from their coop, I was dismayed when I discovered that my favorite hen, Ruby, was not in the coop! Somehow I missed her when I shut them in the night before.  In the twilight and snow I peered into their coop as I always do, to count them, and didn’t see that she wasn’t there after all. Too many shades of dark brown and black, I guess. Chickens do everything as a group:  they wander around eating bugs, chase each other, and all return like clockwork at the first sign of dimming sunlight (cockshut) in the late afternoon these days. Wherever Ruby was, she wasn’t with the group. I resigned myself to the probability she’d been eaten during the night by a coyote or bobcat. I searched the snow for tracks and feathers, but couldn’t find anything to suggest what happened. I blamed myself for missing her in the nightly count.

Later in the day, though, I sat on the front porch a minute and uttered her name several times, just in case.  Lo and behold, Ruby answered and slowly appeared from behind the shrubs now bowed down with snow along one side of the house. These chickens have not been handled so they shy away from being caught. Still, I threw food out to her, which she did go after, and hoped she had not suffered frostbite. How she survived the bitter cold night, alone and undetected by the wild predators that are always around us here, was amazing. But, I couldn’t get her out from under the bushes and back toward the coop. So, I chased and caught another favorite hen, Boo, who seems to be a possible leader of the flock. I placed her down near Ruby in the bushes and hoped that Ruby would somehow follow Boo back to the coop. They hung out together, pecking at scratch and seeds, but neither wandered back to their coop.  No such luck….

As the day grew colder and dimmer, I made the mistake of going outside once with no gloves, determined to use a broom to “hurry” the hens out from under the bushes onto the driveway and eventual connection with the rest of the group in the coop.  Again, no such luck….Boo ran off as hoped and quickly got on her roost in the coop. Ruby? Still in the bushes and reluctant to walk on snow or leave the shrubbery. My maneuver only took a few minutes and since I was determined to “save” her from herself and another night of freezing or predation, I clumped across the branches bowed down with snow, swatting at the “thing with feathers” and immediately face-planted in the snow when I tripped over some branches. I wish someone had been around to laugh at me, face down in the snow, as well as to help me get up. My arthritic, damaged knee does not bend and rolling round in the snow, grasping at other branches, I finally got myself upright, exasperated and very cold.

When my sister came home from work, in the last few minutes of light, I suggested we try again, heading Ruby off “at the pass” if we had to although now I was wondering why her instinct for survival wasn’t guiding her actions. Was she hypothermic and addled, not thinking clearly? Were her chicken toes too cold to stand for more than a second in the snow she’d have to cross to get back to the coop? I’d never captured and held her before and didn’t know if I could as she was pretty quick at running along the wall just beyond reach of my broom and net and then circling back around me over the snow-burdened branches that had earlier tripped me. I didn’t want to fall again and I didn’t want to admit defeat but Ruby was evading me quite nimbly.

On one of her circles back, though, I pounced with my hands on her back, worried I’d break her delicate backbone but trying to stop her just long enough to grab her, which I finally succeeded in doing. The screech she let out was unlike anything I’d heard from any of the chickens, even Boo, who I’d chased down and caught earlier. I put her in the coop and hoped she’d be alive in the morning.  And, she was! She did not come out of the coop all day and was lucky that the sun warmed the coop for most of the afternoon, restoring her inner temperature to normal, I hoped. I brought her food and water, shut her in with everyone at “cockshut” time and Ruby was her usual self by last Wednesday.

Maybe chasing down and saving a chicken from itself is something trivial in the climate of the world we live in now. California is burning up in wildfires, our despicable political climate exerts more toxicity than imaginable, and many of us worry about what will happen next with the outrageous “tax reform” bill, less accessibility to health care, and for those of us on Social Security and Medicare, the real threat of those being attacked, too.  I resent that I paid taxes all my working life into Social Security and Medicare and am now viewed by the repugnant Republicans in Congress (some) as not deserving of the benefits, hearing them wrongly called entitlements. And, the sexual harassment issues are huge and applicable to so many of us as women, too many, and the men who lie about such things will continue to be emblematic of how women/females are still not valued in our society.  No, I don’t like what is going on and I know I am not alone.

So, if I can save the chicken from herself, even as I plot daily how to save myself from myself or the economic deprivations I am now experiencing, then I am happy that my respect for life, even a chicken’s life, has been something I could act on. I just wish I had more options available to me now, such as a job and enough income to live in my own space instead of the nomadic journey I have made through sisters’ houses the past three years, with no end yet in sight. Face plant and all, the chickens keep me sane during this time of cultural insanity. And, Ruby is a super chicken for having survived one very, very cold night when we heard coyotes howling earlier but they didn’t find her. For us humans, though, there are coyotes howling ever closer every day. I hear them and wonder how I will survive?

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