Chickens by the Fence

My neighbors on both sides keep chickens. They are plump little birds in varying hues, from glossy red to speckled white and black, prone to strut and fluff their feathers. What’s more, they make happy little noises that seem to be the avian version of purring.

The neighbor on one side typically lets her chicks prowl the yard, pecking up stray insects and happily scratching up weeds. Most days they appear to be stretching their legs in a leisurely stroll, sort of a Sunday-afternoon-look in their plumy best. One or two have been known to parade along the fence line.

And herein lies the problem. Sadie and Emmett, my border collie mixes, live to chase. Fate has placed big stupid birds right there in front of their noses. What’s a dog to do? Clearly those fowl require chasing; equally obvious is the need to protect the territory against all intruders.

But there is a fence.

My dogs know that the fence is the line of demarcation – everything beyond its leaning poles and rusty wires is no dogs land.

And yet, there are chickens.

Sadie becomes a statue. Tail straight out, eyes fixed on the birds puffing about a mere four feet away. Nothing but a few daffodils and thin wire between them. Emmett begins the anxiety dance, a few steps this way, a few more that way…a crouch for a lunge, then back to the dance. His ears flick every which way as he paces the near perimeter.

The anxiety becomes too much. Emmett makes a lightning lunge; Sadie charges through the flowerbed, halting a quivering nose from the wires.

The chickens shriek and squawk and flap a few feet in the air. They complain and cackle in protest. Emmett and Sadie hurl canine insults and threats. The chickens sashay to a safe distance, still cooing their distress.

The dogs lie down on the daffodils to watch the chickens. Just one toe closer…

And then they all forget about it. A motorcycle catches Emmett’s attention. Sadie wanders off to give her back a good scratch by rolling in the gravel. The chickens strut and cluck, looking for a few insects.

And all is calm again….



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