If you have ever lived in the country, then at some point in your life you have been tempted to raise a flock of chickens. Growing up, my daddy took great care to make sure he had a small farm full of animals to keep us busy. A chicken coop graced a spot on the back three acres of our land, and in the early years of my youth, I learned to rear chickens.
As all great lessons do, this knowledge barreled to the forefront of my adult mind about five years ago when my dear beloved mentioned that he wanted to raise chickens. I was completely on board with this notion because I had always appreciated the richness of a fresh egg, and the quirky personalities of chickens.
And so, we started with just two fowls, a rooster named Billy, and a hen named Peggy Sue. They were smarter than the average chickens. They never ceased to amaze me when they would come running when they heard their names. Billy was very protective of his girl. He would make the most awful noises, and herd Peggy Sue into the chicken coop when a dog or hawk caught his eye.
Soon, spring trips to Tractor Supply and Gurganus yielded more chickens, because let’s face it, who couldn’t live without Buff Orpingtons, Rhode Island Reds, or Asian Blues in their life? No collection of chickens was complete without the classy and broody Silky chicken, and so a small coop was built to accommodate the twenty beauties we just had to have.
Our whole back lot was fenced in to give our feathered children room to be free range, but we still had added protection from the outside elements to keep them safe. A dog attack had leveled the flock, and in its wake, we had lost Peggy Sue, and a rescue goose who had imprinted on me named Charlie. I was devastated.
We installed an electric fence, and anything that touched that fence from the outside, small critters and dogs alike, were met with a high voltage zap to the senses. It wasn’t uncommon in the middle of the night to hear something yelping away from our property like it had experienced some bird shot to the rump.
One morning Jonathan came running into the house with an urgency I had never seen before.
“There is a chicken on the fence! She stuck her head out and got on the line!” he shouted on. To the chicken run we flew to see the condition of our smallest Rhode Island Red, who decided to unknowingly to ride the lightning.
Jonathan put her in our biddy coop which served as a makeshift chicken hospital wing (no pun intended) where she lay for three days (also no pun intended). Every couple of hours, whoever was home would make their way outside to hand feed and hand water the poor darling, who could only lay there and look on. A few days in, she was finally standing on her feet. She was wobbly and a little unsteady, but she was finally eating and drinking on her own.
A week later, we finally decided she was well enough to join the others. No chicken who laid on an electric fence for several minutes, and lived to cluck about it could go unnamed.
She was dubbed Bea Smith, lead character at Wentworth Prison who always managed to survive no matter what. She was even a redhead!
We noticed Bea seemed to be slower than the other chickens. At times she seemed confused, and her comb had began to lay over. I figured that the electric fence had in fact scrambled her brain (pun intended here), but in the process, she had developed a closer bond with us. She had no problem approaching us, or eating out of our hands. She stood still as we picked her up, and had no qualms about being carried around the chicken yard. She followed us wherever we went, and even came running when we called for her. It was quite unique.
A little over a year ago, we had to say goodbye to our old home. We bought a new one at Lake Waccamaw, and there was simply nowhere to put eighty head of chickens. A good friend owns a large chicken yard, and he has the same belief as we do: let them make eggs and live out their days scratching around the coop. Day by day, we transported our lovelies to his farm, and they all seemed happy among the cows and extra feather babies. I loved Billy and Jack-Jack, our roosters, but Bea was special. I worried if she would adjust to being without us, and without the countless hours of human contact she was accustomed to. Jonathan went to our friend’s house often, and many times I would find myself asking after her. I shouldn’t have worried though.
Bea, she’s alive and well. She’s a survivor. If you want to check on her, just stand by the fence and call her name. She’ll come running.