Wild Kingdom

Sad news from Upton Abbey

close up of hawk head
Darth Hawk

I mentioned Humphrey leading a jailbreak with some of his girlfriends. Because of his reckless behavior, I made an attempt to curtail his ambitions to become a free range chicken, but before I got the netting strung over the entire chicken yard, he and one of the Spice Girls — I think it was Nutmeg — flew the coop. Sadly, before I could get them both back into an escape-proof enclosure, Nutmeg disappeared. I think she flew the unfriendly skies with a hawk we’ve seen hanging around. Oh, the brutality of nature!

May we observe a moment of silence for our lost chicken. Even though it was her own darn fault.


I look out my office window. Humphrey and two of the spice girls have, as it were, flown the coop. They’re prancing around under the bird feeder with flagrant disregard for the grave reality that they are AWOL.

Five of the hens in our flock I have named “the spice girls.” They are Pepper, Clove, Cinnamon, Ginger and All, named for their place on the color palette. Two of the five are inclined to make an occasional jailbreak, usually incited by Earhart, the aviatrix of the flock.

Today, I blame Humphrey for leading the insurrection. He is a stately, handsome, belligerent fellow, with a determined look, evidence of the deadly sin of pride. With regard to pride, a peacock has nothing on him. The other morning he sounded off at 3:15AM. I don’t know what came over him. When, in passing conversation, we mentioned it to our son-in-law (the “landlord” 😉) about it, he offered to slaughter the miscreant to preserve our rest. As bothersome as a 3:15AM alarm is, I don’t think I want to dispatch Humphrey to the great crock-pot in the sky just yet. He is, after all, a chicken, complete with limited intellectual capacity. I trust that his early morning reveille will not be a regular thing. For the most part he respects certain boundaries relative to the time of day. He’s only done the very early announcement once. The rest of the time he usually waits until after 5:00 which is our usual time to rise anyway.

I know if I go out there to try to bring them all to confinement again they will flap around, running for their lives. And I will weary myself trying to coax them back into line. I’ve done this numerous times and it occurs to me that stumbling about waving my arms probably puts me on the same level as they– leaping and lunging, flapping and stumbling– as I try to curtail their freedom, which they are inclined to guard jealously.

To complicate matters this morning, Mr. and Mrs. Puddles, our resident ducks, are also out for their morning walk.

I believe I will attempt to ignore the poultry and return to my morning prayer time. I am far too easily distracted…

Life at Upton Abbey*

“Breaking” news…

This just in from Upton Abbey: We have a baby chick! I feel like a father!

We knew something was likely to happen eventually when we discovered that one of the peeps we got several months ago turned out to be a rooster. Total accident. At first, we thought we just had a hen with identity issues when we heard some pretty pathetic crowing out in the chicken yard. Alas, it was a real rooster, and a handsome one at that. He is tall, good looking, with a wonderful red crest, and black and dark rust-red feathers. I realized instantly that he was leading-man material and so I named him Humphrey Bogart (I call him Humphrey even though it seems there could be an unintended double entendre involved). Nevertheless, as we predicted, his hormonal proclivities appear to have changed the dynamic of the hen house.

We noticed one of the hens, Golda by name, started hanging out in the coop a lot. We were suspicious that she and Humphrey had a relationship.

Indeed they did. Today, to our surprise and delight, Golda emerged with one tiny chick. We here at Upton Abbey are thrilled. But we are concerned, because we don’t know the first thing about caring for a single peep and its pretty protective mama. At this point we are trusting that Golda will do what chicken mamas have been doing for millennia. Otherwise, her progeny is doomed.

I’ll keep you posted, but I should say that the survival of our first home-grown chicken is not guaranteed. After all, there were other nest-mates who didn’t make it because we neglected to gather eggs for a day or two, which apparently confused Golda into sitting on the wrong eggs with the result that some of the nestlings wound up in a bowl in the kitchen.

Meanwhile, Humphrey has been crowing more often and loudly lately. Way to go, Humphrey!

* Upton Abbey is what I call our country dwelling unit built over my daughter and son-in-law’s garage. Our nearest neighbors are a flock of chickens and two ducks, Helga and Percival Puddles. Percy has been having an affair with LaVern, one of the chickens who … uh, let’s not talk about it.