Jul 26, 2014
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The Great Chicken Escape

The Great Chicken Escape
High Meadows Farm is the centerpiece to a collection of heartwarming stories that take place in this small New England town where good manners and treasured friendships never go out of style.
Some people might think that life on our farm is boring with little or no diversity from the daily routines needed to keep High Meadows' 40 acres running smoothly. But nothing could be further from the truth.  Every day presents something new, rather it be a blessing or a challenge. 
      Recently, I awoke one morning to find the wind storm that had barreled through our valley overnight had caused a tree limb to fall on the chicken coop, leaving a gaping hole and scattering my laying hens in every direction.  I alerted Andrus and he decided to use the shepherds to track them down.
     German shepherds possess a powerful ability to follow a scent which our dogs have repeatedly proven. A few years back they led a group of local men and rooted out a pack of coyotes that had been attacking farm animals up and down the valley.
    Last summer, they successfully tracked a missing 6 year old boy who had been visiting relatives and wandered off into the thick woods that rims our town. After a preliminary search, Sheriff Higgins called the state Canine Rescue Unit for assistance, but was told that the dogs had already been employed and that it would likely be several hours before they could be dispatched. With nightfall just a few hours away and fearing for the child's safety, the sheriff called Andrus.
    I never saw a man so proud as when he came out of those woods carrying a small boy and flanked by two extremely happy dogs.
    Since Wolfgang and Amadeus had repeatedly proven their keen tracking skills, Andrus naturally assumed that they wouldn't have any trouble finding the missing chickens. So, he tore off a plank from one the chicken's nesting boxes, let each dog take a whiff, then followed that up with the command to 'find'.  But instead of eagerly beginning a search, they just looked at him with confusion, as though to say, "You want us to find... what?" 
    Confused by the dog's reluctance, Andrus repeated the process, but instead of rushing off to find the chickens, both dogs sat down and refused to move.  For the next 15 minutes, Andrus repeated the procedure again and again; and for the next 15 minutes, the dogs continued to look at him as though he was speaking pig Latin. 
    I was just about to turn on my Kitchen Aid mixer when Andrus stomped into the kitchen.
    "Get your coat on," he growled. "I need your help finding these gosh, darn chickens of yours."
    Although few enjoyed their breakfast of fresh, brown eggs with rich golden yolks as much as Andrus did, my laying hens are a bane to his existence. This is most evident during the spring when they inevitably break loose from their pen and use their sharp claws to rototill the new spouts in the vegetable garden. I do have to concede that when they're through, it does look as though a minefield has been tripped. The entire garden will need to be replanted. 
     Later, as Andrus goes about re-rototilling the large garden patch while plotting the demise of my laying hens, I try to explain that a weed and a tender new plant do look alike to a chicken. That night, I serve his favorite spinach and mushroom quiche, making certain to leave the bowl of eggshells in plain sight.
    Before Andrus appeared, I had been in the midst of baking a batch of cookies for the Women's Club luncheon,  but I surmise that he's in no mood to be told to wait until the baking is done. Prudently, I turn off the oven and grab my 'farm' coat, the one that is so badly stained that I can longer remember its original color and prepare to follow him outside.
     "I thought you were getting the dogs to track them," I say.
     "I tried but they won't move.  Darnest thing I ever saw. They just sit there. I don't know what's got into those dogs." 
    I know, but prudently decide to keep it to myself. Since pups, I have imprinted in their minds that my chickens are off limits. They were never to go after them. Apparently, I had trained them too well since so no matter what Andrus commanded, they were not having anything to do with 'mom's' chickens.
    Just then, the phone rang. Andrus pick up on the second ring.
    "You missing any of your chickens?" our neighbor asks.
    I watch my husband's face go dark red as he mumbles, "I'll be right over."
     "Well, we found your darn chickens," he says. "Apparently, they decided to take a stroll across the road and ended up in the Fred's barn and now, they won't leave. Meanwhile, they're spooking his horses since they don't take too kindly to a bunch of noisy chickens weaving in and out of their stalls."
    I watch from the back porch as Andrus heads towards the barn while mumbling several unchristian-like phrases. The dogs join me and lean against my legs, seeking protection from the crazed master who is now tossing cages onto the hay wagon with so much force that two split right in half.
    Andrus hops on the John Deere and turns over the engine. With a plume of black smoke rising like a swarm of angry bees, he points the tractor down the drive.
    Shifting into gear as his passes, he shouts above the din, "I wish you'd learn that there ain't nothing wrong with store bought eggs."

Copyright©2014 Katherine Valentine

    Katherine Valentine is an Award Winning Author whose novels center on the charm of small town living. To learn more about Katherine and to be placed on her mailing list, visit: www.katherinevalentine.com. And check out High Meadows  on Facebook.  Do you know anyone in need of a cozy read? Then please share this charming, feel-good new series with others.

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