By Shelia DiMeolo
It only took me about three months, but I finally caught a chicken for the first time. Ian and Ben had just moved the layers to a new spot, which makes closing up their house a little difficult in the evening since many (especially the younger ones) try to roost in the trees closer to where the laying house was last located. This can mean a lot of herding and catching of chickens to get them into the safety of their egg-mobile home.
This particular muggy evening the Reilly family was not home, leaving me as Ben’s only option for help. I walked over to find him with a stick trying to herd about 20 hens towards their house but having trouble crossing a ditch with lots of trees. The chickens were trying to stop there or would use the obstacles to swing a wide circle around Ben and back up the hill in the wrong direction. We managed to herd the large group of them in the right direction but there were quite a few stragglers left and it was getting dark quickly.
Ben started sneaking up on the chickens to catch them and putting them in the egg-mobile. I just couldn’t get up the nerve to do the same. I don’t know what I was scared of, seeing as they can’t do much damage; but scared I was! Ben handed me a chicken to carry back so he could catch more. She was not flapping or pecking, calm as can be with her wings gently trapped under my grip. She felt surprisingly small and warm under all those feathers.
I returned to help Ben, who had most of them under control. I zeroed in on a white hen (about all I could see in the dark) and followed her around waiting for her to forget about me and find a place to rest. She finally climbed a very low tree branch with no clue I was behind her, hands outstretched, plotting just how to snatch her. I kept thinking of a few weeks ago when my 3 year old son, Turner, had no problem catching a stray hen. He followed her down the long drive to the layer house all by himself, his face flushed and full of pride. He is putting me to shame with his farm skills! It took me a while to work up the courage, but I finally whipped one hand on the chicken’s breasts, the other on her back, lightly pinning her wings down. As Ben had told me would happen, she didn’t fight at all and allowed me to carry her, my first catch, back to her home. If you could have seen my face in the darkness, I would bet it looked just like Turner’s after his catch.