One of my neighbors keeps chickens. This isn’t anything new, back in the day Riley and then Logan were fascinated by the Chicken House. I’ve met the Lady of the Chickens before, she’s entertaining people. She’s got a husband (I assume that’s what he is, or a livein, or something) and a German Shepherd who go tearing about the neighborhood, man on a bicycle and dog on its own four feet. The Shepherd is very interested in my yard, for some reason.
So are Chicken Lady’s newest chickens. There are three of them, very pretty; their feathers are a lovely reddish shade of brown with black edging, giving them a scalloped appearance. They don’t cluck, which surprised me: they whistle, and it’s a charming sound.
It should say something about my life that I went out, got the mail, noticed the chickens, came in, and said to the dog, “Josie, why are there chickens in our yard?” — and then proceeded to do nothing else about it, except for try to get photos when I could.
The Wild Chicken Gang is three individuals, and I can’t tell whether they’re roosters or hens: they have wattles and the… forehead wattle… and they stick close together. They won’t let me near, though I’ve tried.
They are, as I mentioned, quite pretty.
While getting the mail (this seems like some kind of adventure and not merely walking twenty feet from my front door to the sidewalk) I saw the chickens and I heard, in the distance, a little ringing bell. I looked around and spotted the Chicken Lady, ringing a small bell, and walking around the streetcorner outside her house.
I decided she might want to know where her flock had gone, so I went to tell her. I told her that I did not mind the chickens’ presence, and they are welcome to scratch for bugs in my yard if they want. I don’t mind, truly, though I have learned chicken scratchings are a messy business. It makes things more entertaining to have Suddenly Chickens in one’s front yard.
“I try to call them back,” she said – she is a little old Southeastern Asian lady with a delightful accent I can’t place; we’ve spoken before, years ago, and I think she mentioned family in Indonesia — anyway, “I try to call them home,” she said, holding up the black-handled brass bell she kept ringing, “I have food for them, but they don’t want it! Good chicken food, they rather hunt for themselves!” I repeated that I didn’t mind — some people would, I expect. Boring people. She’s not boring people; her whole front yard is a wild rambling container garden under a huge shaded tree, and she has chickens in the back, and a Volkswagen bus besides. I try to be not-boring in ways like that. Sometimes I manage, I hope.
So now she knows that sometimes her chickens are here, but I haven’t seen them in a few days and I am worried that something may have happened to them. Hopefully, she’s just managed to keep them home — we have wandering cats and raccoons and hawks, it’s not a good place for a chicken or three to be on their own.
Fun thing though, the chickens do have to cross a road to get to my house, and again to get back home. Why do the chickens cross the road? Good hunting. Grubs in the dirt.
2. Wodent Wheels.
On to smaller animals: hamsters. Weee Myshka died at two and a half years old, and after a few weeks I decided that a hamsterless house is just Not Done and sought a replacement, who turned out to be a sweet black-bear Syrian. I have named him Blink because I never see him do it. Don’t get into staring contests with prey animals, you’ll lose. Blink proves to me that black-bear hams indeed have some genetic edge when it comes to tameness; I could handle him the same day he came home, and though he’s a youngster and full of scrambly beans, he doesn’t mind being held.
Blink’s arrival necessitated an upgrade of some of the cage furnishings: specifically, the exercise wheels, which after two adult Syrians’ worth of miles were showing a bit of wear. The Comfort Wheel was misshapen somehow, only able to propel a hamster along at a leisurely stroll. The Silent Spinner, which I love, only comes in a six-inch version and not an eight-inch version, so it’s too small for adult Syrians. Too, after years of taking it apart to soak hamster pee off it, the outer ring no longer fit tightly, and wrapping it in masking tape was not a good solution.
I decided to splash out on a Wodent Wheel, which I’ve wanted since One Eyed Jack, and it arrived yesterday. I set it up, then encouraged Blink in with a cheese-flavored yogurt drop. He dutifully strolled in it for a minute or two, then retreated to his house once I was no longer hovering nearby. Hamsters do not take well to change.
Last night, though, was a different story. I’d read the website, and though it recommended lubricating the axles, I spun the thing and assumed it would be fine.
I woke around three in the morning to an insistent skree, skree, skree which, in my hazy sleepy state, I think I tried to solve in a dream before I fully woke up. The noise didn’t stop, so it was coming from reality. Josie danced around, confused by my unexpected awakeness and the noise.
skree, skree, skree went Blink, running a hamarathon in his swank new wheel.
I took it out of the cage – with difficulty; now that Blink decided he liked it he wasn’t easily dislodged – and sat there staring at it, sleep-fuzzed and stupid. I took it apart and saw the problem: the metal ring which connects the solid back to the axle had been scraping against the axle. There were little scratch marks in the enameled paint on the metal.
I wrapped it with more of the painter’s tape and put it back. This isn’t a permanent solution, but it’ll do for now. Blink adores the thing, and hamsters are like any other pet: a happily tired one is a well-behaved one.
3. Dog IQ. (This bit is copied from a lengthy Mefi comment and slightly edited.)
I just gave Josie this dog IQ test. She scored a total of 22, which makes her smart, but not Border Collie smart.
The tests were:
1. Put a treat under a cup, encourage dog to get it. Josie sniffed around a bit, looked up at me as if to say “But you always get mad when I bother cups?” and then knocked it over to get the treat. 4 points, according to the test.
2. Dog Under Blanket. I threw a large bath towel over her and started counting. She wiggled her head free pretty quickly and then stood there staring at me, confused. Since the test only mentioned head and shoulders, I gave her 4 points, though she still had the rest of the towel on her. I think I did this wrong, since the test said to just put the towel over her head. Putting the towel away turned into a bit of a tug game because YAY TOWEL.
3. Dog Responds To Smile. I had to wait for her to settle down after all the excitement. I gave her a good gaze and then smiled, and she stared at me like I had lost my mind. No other response. Scored 1 point out of 5. I started laughing and she came right up, so I think she should get extra points for that, but I’ll stick with what the test says.
4. Food Under Towel. See the cookie. See the cookie on the floor. See the towel on the cookie. Whatcha gonna do Josie? Get it! Get it! Josie’s solution to this was to locate the lump indicating the biscuit, then grab it and the towel and take it into another room to solve at her leisure. She did it in thirty-one seconds, which got her three points.
5. Retrieval From Under A Barrier. This was difficult, since Josie shoveled her head under the first few stacks of things and got to the treat without her paws. She is a very strong dog. Once I built a solid structure out of her bowl, a shoe, and a storage bin full of yarn, she pawed the cookie out in under a minute. Five points. I am not surprised; she is very good at pawing me to great (painful) effect.
6. Does Dog Know Its Name. Using the Happy Voice, I dutifully called, “Refrigerator!” Josie looked at me, confused. I then said, “Movies!” Josie was baffled. “Josie!” She barreled towards me. DAT ME! Five points.
She is giving me curious looks, as if wondering what madness I am going to inflict on her next. Nothing, kid. We’re done, you’re smart.