I have been periodically removing chickens from one of my pens. The goal is to have it empty before winter is in full force. The traditional method would be to butcher them but I’ve gone wobbly and traded them off instead. (In my defense the freezer is already full of tasty animals.)
Each time I’ve arranged a trade I’ve grabbed a couple dozen birds, put them in a “travel” cage, and driven off. It’s not surprising that the chickens don’t volunteer for this procedure.
Chickens are like people in that some are brighter than others. Mine are free range chickens which puts them in the Mensa/Survivalist chicken league. They’re only penned at night. Chickens too stupid to get in the door by sunset face a bleak and dangerous night. Stupid chickens, like teenagers who miss curfew, tend to get into trouble.
Some chickens might have figured out that none who have entered the “travel” cage have come back. Though that’s probably beyond the mind of a chicken. This isn’t to disparage poultry. Frankly I’m not sure most humans plan beyond next Wednesday. Despite the biological unlikelihood I have the suspicion that some of my Mensa level worldly wise free ranging hens are clever enough to avoid the barn if they see me putting the “travel” cage in the truck. I imagine them warily sitting in the forest thinking “The truck box thing is afoot. I’m staying out of harm’s way.” Perhaps they try to convince their brethren? “Hear me sisters! When the box thing is on the truck…some of us vanish. I don’t know what’s going on but avoid the box thing.”
I’m not going to go tromping through the forest catching hens. The fattest laziest birds, the ones that rarely leave the pen, are the first to go. Unemployed yahoos who sit in the basement playing Nintendo should mark these words; you’re first on the list.
I call those early losers the “welfare birds”. Good riddance to them. Weeding out the losers means I’m left with hard working birds that are scratching up their own food part of the day. Welfare birds are always incredibly easy to catch. (See above: Nintendo)
After several chicken trades the welfare birds are all gone and I have to schedule my forays for when the pen door is shut and escape is impossible. Incrementally I wind up grabbing wiser, warier birds. That’s ok. I need the exercise.
As for the chickens, life is not fair. The fleet and agile evade me. The slow and dumb do not. Every time I reach into their pen and remove a bird, the remaining ones are relatively faster, warier, tougher, stronger, and bordering on cunning.
Today, I caught and traded the last of that group of birds. The last one could bob and weave like a prizefighter. Whenever I’d get a hand on it it would explode in a fury of flapping and squawking more suitable to a dragon than a farm animal.
I would up frustrated, sweating, and covered with dust. I tried talking to it with a calming voice. “Sheesh bird, I’m not going to butcher anyone. I’m taking you to a bigger farm. Where they’ve got a huge pen and lots of room and plenty of feed…” I paused. Everything I said was true yet even I didn’t believe myself. How jaded have we become? The bird was unaffected by over thinking. It took it’s chance and blasted from the pen’s corner. It careened across my chest, bounced off the netting, whacked into the back of my head and somehow got around me yet again. Wow!
It took several more tries before I finally nabbed it. Even when I had a good grip it fought like a champ, squawked enough to terrify the chickens in the other pen and get the roosters crowing, and it made several heroic pecks at my gloved hands. This was the ninja, killer, assassin, jungle warfare, wilderness survival, Navy SEAL, “don’t turn your back on it for one second”, greatest chicken of all time!
I could only admire it’s moxie. Before I put it in the “travel” cage I took a picture. Because heroism, even in a silly bird, is impressive.
P.S. When I got to the destination I had to put them in their new home. I’ll be darned if the same bird waited until my guard was down and made a break for it right there in the driveway. I cornered it and got it delivered, but honestly, that chicken totally won my heart. I almost wanted to take it back home and keep it as “fully retired veteran survival hen”. Well done!