Free bird

This spring while I was helping my mother with one–I can’t remember if it was the first or the second–of her cancer surgeries, Shane went out to the local IFA and picked up a baby chick. I had been raising three baby chicks already, but had been waiting for months for an Americauna, which was to lay pretty blue, green or blue-green eggs. (Photos forthcoming) She was beautiful–one of the prettiest chicks I’ve raised. I named her Cleo, because the markings on her eyes reminded me of Cleopatra.

Because the other chicks were already grown enough to join the other chickens, this one was raised by itself, which is sort of a sad thing for a baby chick. When it was time to move it outside, it was clear that the pecking order was not it Cleo’s favor. The three young hens that were older than Cleo had banded together even more tightly than would have naturally occurred by being raised together, in order to protect themselves from the older hens who were not very keen on the new comers. That put Cleo all alone at the bottom of the pack.

When it was clear that she was not going to be very happy being picked and pecked on all around, we moved her into the bottom of one of the pigeon cages, hoping she would get bigger and also acclimate a bit. Pigeons are much nicer to their own kind than chickens. Soon it was clear Cleo thought herself to be a pigeon. She seemed pretty content as a pigeon, but when I would let her out in the afternoon with all the chickens, she would run and hide under the pigeon cage. She spend a good part of her teen-chicken months under in self-assigned solitary confinement under the pigeon cage.

Then one morning in the late summer I heard a strange sound in the back yard. It was a hoarse crow. And it came from Cleo. I mentioned it to my husband, but he did not believe me.

Then, a couple of days later, he watched Cleo crow and knew I hadn’t been imagining things.

My she was not a she but a he. And instead of pretty blue, green or blue-green eggs, all I was going to get out of Cleo was going to be strife with my neighbors and a possible visit from Animal Control.

We set about trying to find Cleo a home before her/his crows got loud enough to annoy the neighbors. Several of Shane’s students were interested. There were a few others who expressed interest as well. We sent her/him out to Duchesne and after a couple of interested parties changed their minds, Cleo ended up at my inlaws. It seemed to be the only safe place for such a timid, anti-social and, truly, scared-nearly-to-death fowl.

This morning I heard Cleo crow for the first time in months. He runs free all over the yard and pasture here. Seems to get on just fine with another rooster who found refuge here. He’s huge now. And still beautiful. But the best part is he appears to be very happy. He no longer looks at the world from under a somewhat poopy pigeon cage. He seems to enjoy free reign of the place and is strutting his stuff in the sunshine. Or sometimes the snow. In any case, he holds his head a lot taller now. And the fresh air seems to do him good.

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