Well, the chickens are back. It was almost a necessity. Neighbors kept asking, “Where are the chickens? Are you going to get more?” When we had chickens, weekends would bring a string of nieces, nephews, grandchildren, all wanting to see the chickens. When we lost the last two of our once-proud flock, it became obvious that we were disappointing a lot of children. Not something you want in your karmic yearbook.
So not long ago in a fit of remorse, my neighbor bought an even dozen. They were a mixed bag, remnants of the season’s chicken supply. Some black, some red and one small white hen which looked like a large pigeon.
We moved and renovated the chicken house and built a chicken aviary so they could stretch their wings. We were aiming for not only free-range chickens but for free-flight chickens as well.
It should also be noted that the chicken house stands a few feet
off the ground. With our last flock, we had built a ramp with little
crossbars so the birds could go up into the chicken house, which
they learned to do quickly. We anticipated no problem with another flock being equally adept.
So when we moved the chickens into the chicken house and they immediately learned to navigate the ramp down to the outside world, we were proud as new parents.
When we moved the chickens into the chicken house and they immediately learned to navigate a new ramp down to the outside world, we were proud as new parents.
It was not until that evening that the trouble began.
We had thought that once it got dark the chickens would file orderly up the ramp and into the chicken house. We would then close the door, protecting them from any outside varmints.
They would file in an orderly fashion up the ramp but would balk at the door. The little white chicken, which was first in line, just stopped there. Right in the doorway. Wouldn’t budge.
Finally we picked her up and tossed her, fluttering and clucking, into the chicken house. But then the next in line balked at the door.
“What’s the matter with these chickens?” my neighbor asked. “Is there something in there?” She shined her light into the interior. Nothing.
It became a routine. Every evening after dark we’d find the white chicken blocking the door and the others lined up on the ramp. We’d grab her and throw her in and they’d all move up the ramp one space but the next one would just sit there. It was necessary to grab each one and toss it into the chicken house.
Once they were all in we’d shine a flashlight into the house. They were all crowded into one corner looking terrified. Even the little rooster seemed to be hunkering down, trying to make himself as small as possible.
What indeed was wrong with these chickens?
Now chickens are much more sensitive animals than most people give them credit for being. Sure they’re vicious when they’re after a bug or fighting for a grain of corn but when they settle down at night and you listen to their soft clucks and mutters you know that here beats a sensitive, if feathered, heart.
Clearly something was bothering them. Something we humans were too insensitive to recognize.
That’s why I found myself outside the chicken house one night just looking around and standing quietly to listen. They had all gone silent and I stood there listening.
Suddenly I heard a low, moan-like noise. Awwwkk. It sounded like a chicken in distress but whispering. Awwwkk. I opened the door and shined the light inside. They were all still gathered in a corner, eyes wide open, obviously terrified. But I could see nothing. Awwwkk. Jake, my dog, had had enough. With a moan he headed back into the house leaving me in the dark. Awwwkk.
I can tell you it made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.
Obviously there was something there. Something unnatural. Could it be the spirits of our long-departed Thelma and Louise? Could our chicken house be haunted? I quickly followed Jake inside and turned the TV on and the volume up. There are some things best left alone.
But the next morning, after thinking things over, I decided that we needed professional help. I made some informal inquiries with the church but they seem to have gotten out of the exorcism business and besides couldn’t consider working with chickens.
Fortunately I remembered Mama Shoo-Shoo. She had come to us once wanting to buy one totally black chicken and one totally white chicken. She said that she was a Santera, a priestess of Santeria, and was adept at healing and casting out spells, but she seemed to know a lot about chickens and at this point I was feeling desperate. I found her Tulsa telephone number and gave her a call.
“Chango is unhappy,” she said when I explained the problem. “It will require a cleansing. His numbers are four and six, Friday is his favorite day and okra his favorite food.
Since Friday the sixth was only a few days away we settled on it and I agreed to have some fresh okra on hand.
She built a small fire in the back yard and threw in a handful of something. “Lemon grass and jobo,” she said. Then she lay the okra on the fire and tossed a small bag of chicken bones on the ground several times. Finally she nodded knowingly and began a chant in some language I couldn’t understand. When she finished she rose. “Chango is pleased,” she said. “That will be $49.95 plus tax.”
As she was leaving she slipped something wrapped in an oily brown paper into my hand and said, “If you have any more trouble, put this in the chicken house at night.”
“What is it?” I asked slightly horrified, it felt like a monkey’s paw.
“A Glow-in-the-dark-Jesus,” she replied. “Works every time.”
We haven’t had any more trouble. Come dark now our chickens line up and go into the chicken house. They no longer crowd together but roost naturally. I did place the glow-in-the-dark-Jesus at one end of the chicken house. But still, every once in a while at night, when I pass the chicken house I think I hear a low moaning call.
By Ron Holmes