Strangest thing happened last week. I was sipping coffee curbside in the alley behind the hospital...with my laptop in my lap, of course. I was more than likely stealing wi-fi and reading over your comments on a recent post...when a chicken approached. 

Yes, a chicken. A small, dirty-looking, hen-like creature strutted towards me in standard gallinaceous style, clucking and pecking at the cat food littered on the ground around me and acting for all the world like the baby bird in the book who looks at the tractor and asks if it’s his mother.

Yeah, that’s me, the tractor. And now the tractor has a chicken. 

After washing her up, I learned that some chickens aren’t really as filthy as they look. They simply happen to have the unfortunate natural coloration you might call “Dirty Bird” in a Sherwin-Williams lineup. 

I will admit, she’s not exactly the prettiest chicken I’ve ever seen. But what else could I do? A friendly chicken in an alley in suburban Miami was not going to last. We joked that if the Haitians at the local pet shop didn’t stew her or try to sell her, the Jamaicans at the patty-place or the Chinese buffet on the corner would certainly make use of her minimal meat. So I took her home.

So you know, I’ve always wanted chickens. Even if they’re not as personable as goats and require more maintenance (if I’m going to pen them), they’re great additions to a household that already spends about $20 a month on locally-laid barnyard eggs. My BFF, Gina over at PetConnection, tells me chickens are the way to go. And I’ve never had cause to disbelieve her.

Not that this chicken would be laying anything beyond the frequent turd anytime soon. Not that she’d ever survive in a coop where her sickly frame and human-centric personality would never endear her to her “flock.” Nope. This skinny, sneezing, loose dropping-afflicted bird would need some looking after:

A little Tylan powder for deworming, one oral dose of Baytril (antibiotic), and an excellent selection of chicken feed and goat pellets would surely start her on her way--if she stuck around. I mean, even chickens can fly over fences, right? 

Though I worried she’s disappear, become hawk-bait (I’ve got small Kestrels mostly but I do see the occasional chicken-enabled Red-Tail) or succumb to one of the two large, now-neutered toms who prowl my yard, I figured my large yard (an acre) would give her a better chance than the alley behind a strip-mall bounded by two busy streets.

Once home, I relaxed: Not only did she strangely endear herself to my goats (another “Are-You-My-Mother” moment) she quickly earned herself my dogs’ apathy and generally seemed to enjoy herself. Blithely pecking away at goat poo, she seemed as happy as the proverbial pig in s---. And why not? My yard is probably chicken heaven--if you discount the cats and the hawks. 

The first night she roosted near the goats. The next morning, I found her following them into the woods (here’s a You-Tube video). And by the next evening, she was roosting on my shoulder as I prepped my next blog post. Very strange. But sorta sweet and wonderful, too. Here she is with Tulip:

Just as a stray goat was my initial foray into goat-keeping, I’m thinking this chicken will help me realize my next adventure in animal agriculture. I’m already mapping out the chicken pen and pricing out the materials. 

Yes, my family thinks I’m a little strange. The workmen installing some goat-proofing fencing looked at me bemusedly while remarking on Chicken Little’s charm and calm. Even my pet-addled son believes my animal interests are a sort of OCD. But I’ll bet you one thing: 

They may be dissing my ugly hen right now but I’ll wager none of them will be turning down any future eggs.