Phyllis brings ‘em back alive

Phyllis brings 'em back alive By Bob Karolevitz You had to see it to believe it!

There was Phyllis � with a long-handled fish net � chasing after a wild-eyed chicken that had escaped from the coop.

When she went one way, the crazed hen went another. It was strictly a scene from a Mack Sennett comedy � for those of you old enough to remember what they were.

If you wonder how that silly episode came about, I'll set the stage for you.

During the off-season when the chickens aren't part of the Garritys' Prairie Gardens petting zoo, we provide a home-away-from-home for the small flock. Kind-hearted Phyllis didn't like the accommodations for them at the orchard during the winter and spring months, so they were transported to the Karolevitz Best Western for a cozy stay in our hen house.

They repaid the courtesy by laying lots of eggs � way more than we could eat what with all that cholesterol talk � so Phyllis has been giving them away and selling a few to try to recoup some of the laying mash expense.

We finally figured it out, and those eggs are costing us about $7.37 each � which actually is a lot less expensive than oats and alfalfa for Phyllis's horses, which don't lay eggs or do anything else to pay their way.

At any rate, the time had come for at least some of the chickens to go back to the commercial world. Son-in-law Pat Garrity came down to our place in the dark of night to get six of the hens and the cantankerous attack rooster. The job should have been uncomplicated and without problems.

Chickens when they go beddy-bye are easy to pick off the roost in their semi-sombulent state, not unlike taking a can of peas down off the shelf. But Pat � for all his training as a horticulturist � apparently hasn't been schooled in poultry practices.

Instead of quietly lifting each bird off the roost and plopping it into one of the apple boxes he'd brought along, he created bedlam with his fish net. Startled chickens flew hither and yon, cackling to high heaven.

That wouldn't have been so bad, except that he forgot to close the coop door, and in the melee a traumatized Barred Rock escaped into the night.

"Are there just 12 chickens?" Pat wanted to know after things had settled down a bit. "No, there should be 13," Phyllis answered. After all, she should know, having made friends with all of them � except the ill-tempered old rooster. Anyhow, that's how we knew for sure that one had gotten away.

We then began our search mission. Up and down the fence rows we went. Each bushy clump was double-checked with each of our flashlights. I think Phyllis called "Here, chickee, chickee" � but to no avail. That hen � with her black, gray and white camouflage � had simply disappeared.

We finally gave up looking, but my wife was bemoaning the future of that errant bird. Surely a raccoon or coyote would find it before morning and all we'd have left would be a pile of feathers.

Reluctantly Phyllis agreed to call off the search, but I could tell she still had that chicken on her mind. I don't know how much she slept that night, but with the dawn, she was back on the chase. Needless to say, she found the AWOL bird, and immediately she took after it, with Pat's fish net poised for the catch.

Around and around the yard they went, until at last she cornered the frightened fowl trying to get back into the door she had flown through the night before. Down came the fish net, and she was captured like a giant salmon.

We now have just half as many hens as we once had, but it doesn't seem to have cut the feed bill in two. Maybe I'd better figure the cost of those eggs again. I don't think $7.37 is quite enough.

On the other hand, I probably should just rent Phyllis and the fish net out for folks who could use her bring-'em-back-alive act.

© 2001 Robert F. Karolevitz

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