I recently acquired two new laying hens, Smartypants and her sister. Her sister doesn’t have a name because, normally, I don’t name my chickens. There have been a few exceptions over the years, for truly exceptional chickens. Mostly, though, they remain nameless because naming them would serve no purpose, and they generally don’t care.
Smartypants and her sister were given to me by my friend Dan. He raised six chicks to pullet stage but couldn’t keep them all, so he brought me his extras. He put a red legband on each one in case I decided they were too much trouble and he needed to take them back, he said. I laughed. I already had six laying hens. How much trouble could two more be?
As soon as Dan left, Smartypants took off her legband. She then began patrolling the perimeter of the outdoor pen, wing tight to the fence, head bobbing up and down, marching like a sentry. Before long, she identified a weak area in the chicken wire and pushed her way out.
I picked her up and put her back in. While I reinforced the gap with rocks and more wire, she found another one. I put her back in and fixed that one. She resumed patrolling the length of the fence, right wing tight to the wire. Pirouette at the corner. Left wing to the wire. She looked down; she looked up. She wouldn’t stop.
She flapped her wings and flew over the four-foot-high fence.
I added more chicken wire, this time leaning it inward at the top. My chicken yard now looks like a concentration camp. She has since stayed inside, but she remains ever-vigilant for opportunity.
The funny thing is, once she’s on the outside, she starts patrolling the same fence, wing to chicken wire, as if it’s still restraining her. She may be a smartypants, but she’s not all that smart.