About Me

Twenty years ago I asked a Tarot card reader what would I be doing when I was 50. She replied, “I see you doing something so wildly creative, it defies a job title.” Only recently did I realize that was a slick way of saying, “I have no idea of what you’ll be doing.” But that prediction kept me charging ahead to the fifties with zeal and anticipation. Now that the future is today, I’m ready for anything!

Oh, Mercy! Part Two of a Story
About an Amazing Chicken

Author's Note: This story from several years ago is about a chicken hen who became caretaker to a flock of guinea chicks, or keets, during a summer when foxes were rampant. Part One ended with a fox sighting, Mercy with tailfeathers missing rounding up keets, and the guinea hen gone.

Mike grabbed a small plastic bucket and gathered up what keets he could find. He counted nine. Mike brought the bucket into the house, and by that time I arrived home with our son Wyatt. As Mike filled me in on what happened, we heard still more keets, their alarmed cheeping in the tall grass sounding like frog peepers.

Mercy continued to collect babies. I grabbed a cooler and put in a layer of bedding, a feeder, and a waterer. The keets from inside the house went into the cooler. So did the keets that Mercy was collecting. There were fifteen in all.

Finally, there was only one keet cheeping out in the grass. Both Mike and I tried to grab it but it seemed to vanish into thin air. We decided to get the cooler from inside the house and bring it back outside, hoping the sound of the keet’s brothers and sisters would lure it in.

But there was a problem. While we looked for the last keet, the babies in the cooler would be sitting targets for the fox. So Mike laid a screen on top of the cooler. He laid a small flatbed trailer on one half of the screen, providing security and also allowing ventilation. Then he stacked three spare tires on top of the trailer. If you wait long enough, there will be a use for that junk you have lying around in the yard.

A Fox and a Ph.D.
“Will that keep the fox out?” I asked skeptically.

“Ohyeah,” Mike assured me. “That fox would need a Ph.D. to figure out how to get in.”

“He does have a Ph.D.,” I said dryly. “A Poultry Heisting Degree.”

By this time, Mike had to leave for a mowing job. Three times I tried to catch the keet, three times it eluded me, three times Mercy herded it back, stopping only once for a quick bite of corn. (I imagine she was getting worn out.) The best I could do was keep the fox away.

When Mike got home, he tried a different tack. Rather than trying to capture the keet,  he set his sights on Mercy. It was fairly easy to net her, and deposit her into an old dog crate. Within moments the keet ventured out in search of its surrogate mother. Seeing her in the crate, the keet slipped in between the bars to join her. Hearing Mike’s triumphant “GOT IT!”— by this time I could barely stand the suspense—I knew the mission was accomplished.

Now, the only thing left to do was unite “mother” and babies. Mike, Wyatt, and I deposited the keets one by one from the cooler into their new home, an empty rabbit hutch. Last came Mercy. As we closed the hutch lid, the keets’ alarmed cheeping turned immediately to contented peeping. Even without her tailfeathers, Mercy was able to cover all 16 babies. since the closest guesstimate of keets had been 18, the fox had only captured one—and perhaps none at all.

A Champion Among Chickens
Thinking of The Widow, who had lost her life after hatching a huge clutch against huge odds, I knew I would feel more kindly toward guineas. And I was especially grateful for Mercy. So many chickens of ours have abandoned their chicks, or lost them, or continued to sit on nests of eggs that had gone bad weeks before. Mercy was worthy of a solid gold nesting box.

On our little five-acre farm, it doesn't take much to create an afternoon of high drama. But then, it doesn’t take much to create a moment of sheer joy. Thanks to Mercy.

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  1. Oh, the life of a farm! I don't know if I would be strong enough to handle it - I was in tears at the loss of "The Widow" and at Mercy's kindness. As much as I love the idea of "cage free" I often forget of the dangers that might arise. We just recently had coyotes in our yard, howling away at 9 o'clock in the morning. I was in fear of my little beagle's life. You are wise to pen them. I enjoyed reading this quite a bit. I didn't know all the different names for all the chickens/hens/roosters. Thank you for sharing your story! ~ Suerae

  2. Hi Suerae! I don't think we were strong enough to handle it either -- we gradually reduced our flocks because losing birds was heartbreaking. I hope your beagle is OK -- those sound like bold coyotes, coming into your yard in broad daylight.

    Chickens are often considered "dumb chickens," but they have more decency than they're given credit for. I'm glad you enjoyed the story; thanks for reading! Susan


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