Coming Home to Roost

Muriel from BlogIt may not have been legal. But I couldn’t resist, my children loved animals and still do.

Here's young Susan with our dog, Buttons, who moved in to live with us, and one of her doves.

Here’s young Susan with our dog, Buttons, who moved in to live with us, and one of her doves.

I met someone who had chickens and arranged to get some. Did I tell my neighbours? Well, no….

Dorothy could not see the chicken coop from her yard

Dorothy could not see the chicken coop from her yard

Dorothy and Orrin lived next door. They could not see the area where we put the chicken coop. Dorothy heard chickens and told Orrin. He suggested she was losing it. The next morning, she heard them again. Quietly she crept out of bed, walked around the corner in nightgown, robe and slippers, stole into our yard and confirmed it.

"The Kauffmanns DO have chickens!

“The Kauffmanns DO have chickens!

“I’m not crazy Orrin! The Kauffmanns DO have chickens,” she was delighted to  have to wake him up to tell him. Nor did they bother her, she loved the sound — Dorothy had been raised on a farm.

Chickens aren’t that noisy without a rooster, but if Dorothy heard them, others would too. What to do? The neighbours received occasional visits from me with an offering of a fresh, warm egg enclosed in my hands. A shameless bribe? Perhaps, but — no one reported us.

Fresh warm egg in hand, I'd shamelessly bribe the neighbours

Fresh warm egg in hand, I’d shamelessly bribe the neighbours

We had a six-foot high chain-link fence installed to enclose the chickens, which you would think sufficient.

One athletic chicken had wanderlust

One athletic chicken had wanderlust

Still, one of them was super athletic and had wanderlust. It would climb onto the roof of the coop, jump over the fence and out into the street to freedom.

Any animal turning up in our neighbourhood ended up at the Kauffmann’s. Either it was ours to begin with, or we would take it in — our neighbours knew that. Thus, when our errant chicken ended up having lunch across the street in a neighbour’s back garden, they dialed our number. The children were at school, we adults at work, except for my French husband’s elderly aunt, Germaine, who was visiting from Paris. Germaine spoke no English. How they managed to convey to her that one of our chickens was destroying their flowers remains a mystery.

Courageously, Germaine trapsed over there and attempted to catch the chicken, which was having too much fun to want to be caught. It ran away again and again until it  ended up on the side of the neighbours’ house facing our street. Notre tante was exhausted. What to do? Perhaps if she went back with a large tablecloth, she might throw it over the creature and catch it that way.

Another neighbour, seeing Germaine through her window, decided the elderly woman had gone bonkers. Picture it. This neighbour, too far away to spot the chicken, could only see poor Germaine running around on someone else’s property waving a tablecloth in the air. She thought that rather strange. Still, it worked. Our aunt caught the chicken! She definitely needed and deserved a nap after her exertions that day. She slept like a baby.

Afterwards, Aunt Germaine slept like a baby

Afterwards, Aunt Germaine slept like a baby

Nonetheless, that was nothing compared to what happened when my dad visited from Montreal.dark and stormy night

“It was a dark and stormy night,” the heavens opened and it poured – hard. Through the noisy rainstorm I heard terrified screeching and scuffling and so braved the elements to investigate. My dad, always a man of action, followed right behind me.

I had never seen a live raccoon before. Certainly not in Los Angeles. It was beautiful. The animal stood its ground, one of my chickens firmly clenched between its teeth. I was mesmerized, unable to move. But not my dad. He grabbed a broom, pushed me aside and shouted: “Outta da vay. Outta da vay!”

I had never seen a live raccoon before

I had never seen a live raccoon before

Then, running toward the startled creature: “Let go my chicken, you bloody bestid!!!” (All in his Lithuanian accent.) He continued to hurl the broom and invectives at the poor raccoon. (Dad knew more curse words than I ever imagined!) No match for dad’s onslaught, the animal dropped the chicken, rapidly scaled the six-foot fence and fled off into the night.

The frightened chickens scattered. Rain running down my face, clothes drenched, I worked at getting my meandering darlings to locked-up safety. One was missing. “Here chick, chick,” I called, tossing food about trying to tempt her back. Hair matted, summer dress clinging, I finally gave up and retreated into the house.

Soaked, I finally retreated into the house

Soaked, I finally retreated into the house

Later loud chicken noises convinced me the missing bird had been the raccoon’s dinner after all. Oh, well….

As can happen in L.A., the next morning the sun shone brilliantly as we breakfasted. “Hey, isn’t that our

The next morning, the sun shone brilliantly

The next morning, the sun shone brilliantly

chicken coming down the hill?” Rafi asked, staring out the window, cereal spoon half-way to his mouth.

Indeed. Exhausted by its adventure, feathers and skin torn from its back, there was the weary chicken, painfully, slowly walking down the middle of the road. The children ran out to scoop it up gently in their arms. Our garage was quickly converted into a chicken hospital where the creature received special attention and care. The feathers never grew back, but that chicken (like my scarf, see Dec/13) was not yet ready to leave us and came home to roost!

We could not bear to eat our hens

We could not bear to eat our hens

P.S: And what happened to the chickens in the end. I think Susan, who was in charge of cleaning the chicken coop, woke up in tears one night. Chickens have lice. Who knew? Lice were crawling down her arms. We could not bear to eat our hens, so we gave them  away to someone who didn’t mind doing so.

4 thoughts on “Coming Home to Roost

  1. Muriel, your tale brought back memories of my childhood with chickens, growing up in the country. My brother and his wife and kids did the back to the land movement in the early 70’s, up in our home town of Clearwater (where my Dad and Mom started the North Thompson Times).
    They had chickens, and I remember killing them and then dipping them in boiling water to make their feathers easier to remove. And boy! Talk about Lice! Zoom, zoom, zoom! The lice all ran like crazy up to the very end of the chicken that we hadn’t removed feathers from!
    Poor Susan – I hope you guys didn’t have to turn your whole house upside down to get rid of them…

  2. Hi Mom,

    Ugh — I remember the lice far too well! I had cleaned the chicken coop that afternoon, but didn’t feel anything until I was trying to fall asleep that night. I felt something tiny moving across my forehead, then something on my arm. I jumped out of bed, turned on the light, and saw the little buggers using me as their own personal expressway, and there was one or two on my pillow, as well. AAAAAAHHHH! I went screaming into mom and dad’s room, where mom promptly figured out what must have happened. She told me to get in the shower and wash my hair with as hot of water as I could stand, several times. I guess she changed the bedding while I was in the shower, scrubbing myself raw.

    Fortunately, bird lice do not use humans as hosts — they are not the same as the lice kids get and pass around to each other. They were washed away, thank goodness, but man, that was seriously CREEPY, in both the literal and the figurative senses! To this day, I have resisted getting chickens, even though I now live in the country and would love the fresh eggs. Just can’t quite deal with the idea of the dang lice!

    Love ya,


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s