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Free Chickens… With A Catch

>5 January 2012
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The other day I came across a Craigslist ad…

“Free chickens. You catch!”

Free chickens? Heck yeah! I’ll work for food! So I called the lady right away and got directions.

She lived on a farm, and was due to have knee surgery in about a week. She was tired of the chickens getting under her feet when she fed her horses, and just wanted them gone.

The problem? They were everywhere! Her free range hens had quickly multiplied, and were roosting in the woods, in the barn, and anywhere else they found a place to park for the night.

Armed with a huge fishing net and several boxes to hold our captives, we pulled our van up to the barn gate and surveyed the battlefield. There in front of us was a huge pasture with horses and donkeys… and pecking chickens everywhere. On the left and right were trees, and old sheds full of barn stuff.

Couldn’t be too hard, right?

We hopped out of the van, and were immediately confronted by these guys…

They were HUGE! And beautiful. And an absolute crack up!

Though they were harmless, the kids were pretty scared by them and were hesitant to get too close. I don’t blame them, they were practically eye-to-eye with the creatures!

If you’ve never been in the presence of a humongous turkey when it sticks its neck out and lets out a loud and garbled GOBBLE!, then you have got to find a farm sometime this year, for the sheer purpose of experiencing a live turkey. They circled us, gobbling, and we all died laughing.

Their names were Bush and Cheney. (Mrs. Farm Lady was a staunch Democrat.)

Man, I’d love to have a turkey like that, purely for kicks!

Okay, but back to the chickens…

At first, we tried to sneak up on a few hens and ensnare them with the net. No dice. They were very quick, and were NOT having it. The lady offered me a long, metal pole that was hooked on the end to grab the chickens by the leg. With my new chicken-catching-tool in hand, I decided to climb to the top of her barn hoping to snag a hen that had flown up there.

By this time another car of people had come to catch chickens, too. Great, I thought. Competition. And they were loud, obnoxious people. Double fun.

As I finished my steady climb up the rickety homemade ladder, I heard the newcomer lady down below me shout for the world to hear, “Look at ‘er, she’s gonna fawl!”

Geez, thanks lady.

I was relieved to get a fairly good footing once up top. The hen I was chasing flew and landed on top of a florescent light fixture hanging from the barn ceiling. I reached from my loft with the stick and tried to shoo her off the light; she was just out of grabbing distance. But then I spotted another hen up there with her. I leaned out and poked it, hoping it too would fly into reach, but it didn’t move. I poked it again.

Yep. Dead as a doornail.

I called to the farmer lady below, “Uh, there’s a dead chicken up here on top of your light.” You know, just in case she started to smell something… as if she’d be able to smell a dead chicken among the horse manure.

“Oh,” she called back up, “it might-a touched an exposed wire.”

Here I am touching it with a metal stick. Lovely.

I climbed back down to see where my husband and kids had gone off to. It was beginning to get dark, but I was able make out Jerry’s figure in the distance of the pasture. He was running full speed after a little hen, with net raised in hand as if it were a spear, which he suddenly lunged through the air in an attempt to perfectly land it over the fleeing hen.

Why did I not bring my video camera?!

The kids were busy trying to catch hens themselves, or shooing them from their hiding places. And the other people were easily catching all of the hens they were sending out. That’s great, people, thanks.

I stood back and watched for a minute, and realized that a bunch of hens were jumping up into one really tall pine tree to roost for the night.

I handed my leg snatcher stick to Jada, grabbed a low hanging tree branch, and proceeded to make my way up the tree, being careful not to put my hand in one of the massive piles of poo that had accumulated on the surrounded branches. By the looks of it, this was the place to roost.

Jada raised my stick back up to me. But every time I tried to grab a hen with it, they would only fly to a higher branch. I climbed, and climbed (and was grateful I wore pants for this little escapade). But once we got close to the top, the hens just flew down and ran off to find another roosting place.

Well, at least they were out of the tree.

But then the older boy that came with the other couple grabbed one of the hens I’d just chased down; the huge, black hen I’d had my eye on from the get-go! It was really on, then. War, people! I needed some chickens!

A minute later, I mercilessly flung myself at a big, white hen that was desperately trying to find a hiding place in all the chaos. And I caught her!! I held her tight as I made my way back to the van to find a box to put her in. The other lady saw the hen I’d just captured and came close enough to deafen me as she shouted to her husband, “Hey honey! She caught that white hen you was wantin’!” Obviously, she was letting me know that that was her hen. I tried to conceal my smug pride.

Me, Jerry, and the kids ran around for a good 2 1/2 hours before we finally rounded up 7 hens and a gorgeous rooster. Jerry even caught a hen with his spear-like lunging net maneuver. Which made him king of the hunt.

But by then it was pitch black, freezing cold, and we were all hungry. Time to head home. I thanked the woman graciously for allowing us to have the chickens for free. Our competition was packing up as well.

And then I remembered something. As I sat in the van and nursed my hungry baby, Jerry went over to the other couple and offered a trade: that black hen I was after, for the white one they had wanted.

It was a deal. And I got my big, beautiful black hen after all.

So, after all that trouble, here are the new chickens…

All the black ones are the newbies. I apologize, none of them wanted to look up for the camera. I’m thinking they’ll do much better free ranging here than my white ones; the hawks shouldn’t pick ‘em out as fast.

And here’s our new man. Not that we needed another rooster. But he was just so pretty!! I have no idea what kind he is.

The things we do around here!! But hey… they were FREE!!!

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32 Comments »

  • Laura said:

    What an escapade! Looks like it was a fun outing.
    Your rooster looks like an Aracauna. All our
    Aracauna roosters have been very gentle and
    friendly.

  • Paula said:

    oh my word, this had me laughing so hard. Sounds like a fun family outing despite the weirdos that were snatching up all the birds you wanted.

  • Chantel said:

    Can’t see his feet to count the toes and he isn’t feather footed but he looks similar to Salmon Faverolles or a Silver Gray Dorking. I’ve never had them but one of the hatchery sites said that Salmon’s were originally bred as a utility fowl in France, now it is raised mostly for exhibition and novelty. It is good sized with a beard, muff, feathered shanks, and 5th toe. The male is colored in straw, reddish brown and black; the female a creamy white and salmon brown. Baby chicks are creamy white with muff, fuzzy legs, and 5th toe. The Silvers are a very old breed known even to the ancient Romans and introduced by them to Britain. Characteristics are the color combination of silvery white and black for males and white and ashy gray for females. Both sexes have a 5th toe, and a long body on short legs.

    I think it was wrong of the woman to allow two separate families to try to catch her chickens at the same time but it sounds as if you handled it very gracefully. Do you plan to go back out and try to catch any that y’all might have missed?

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    Chantel,

    Actually, when the other family pulled up, the lady told me, “I didn’t tell anybody else they could come out here.” I guess the other lady had called, didn’t get an answer, and then looked up the address from the phone book and found her way to the farm anyway! She got out of her truck and shouted obnoxiously, “Whew! This place was hard to find! I tried calling you…” The farmer lady felt bad for us, and offered to try to catch more chickens for us the next day. But we were happy with what we were able to catch :) I’d like to see if she got rid of them all… maybe I should call her again, lol.

  • Jenn @ Monkey Butt Junction said:

    I am cracking up at this post. That is a serious adventure. I remember catching chickens at the farm when I was growing up, and even though our chickens were pretty friendly they were still hard to catch when they didn’t want to be caught.

  • Katie W. said:

    That is too much fun! I am sure if you had video taped Jerry I would have tears of laughter in my eyes. I was cracking up just reading it! :) It is so cool you got to do this and especially as a family! So much fun! Thank you for sharing this story. You got a lot of beautiful birds and best of all they were Free! Love it!

    ~ Katie

  • Anonymous said:

    You made a memory you will never forget!

  • Doug@thesimplefarm said:

    This is great. Reminds me totally of something we would have got caught up in.

    I love the dead chicken and exposed wire part. Was the chicken bloated or fried?

  • Melissa said:

    Your post had me rolling! We also have chickens, and they do NOT like to be handled. For a while there, they would all roost on the lawn furniture, and we would have to walk them all to their coop at night. We would wait until they drifted off to sleep before picking them up. You are right about needing a video camera! Too funny!

  • Kristen said:

    This is so great – who needs a video camera when you described it so well? I can picture everything perfectly, including the flying lunges! Great story. :)

  • Tami Lewis said:

    free!!!!! and now you not only have some great chickens but a gretat memory that i guarantee will be told to your grandchildren! how blessed you are! we plan to get 6 more hens- we aren’t roosters here- in march to go with our 6 we have now. (we had seven but she died) but unfortunately i only have tractor supply to go :( oh well! :)

  • Elisabeth said:

    I loved this! I could totally see myself in the same situation…I wanted to go grab that black hen for ya’…I’m glad you ended up with her in the end. My mom keeps chickens…I LOVE chickens, but we are not allowed to have them where we live.

  • Angela said:

    Your rooster looks exactly like mine and we were told he was a phoenix. He’s just the sweetest thing ever. He never charges us, picks at us or plays the bully. We may change his name however from Virgil to Reverend Virgil since he goes to hide under this board and sits down to “pray.” LOL Two three times a day he retreats to that spot to talk. It sounds like he’s actually praying too. :)

  • Jill said:

    I’m sure this will be a story your kids will be telling for ages.

    It’s amazing how some people hear “free offer” and presume that they are the ones who can have the freebie – - and that they don’t need to show any gratitude, humility, or good manners for the opportunity either.

    Hopefully you scored some points with the lady of the house, – unlike that other bunch. You never know – you might deal with her again and she’ll remember how well mannered your family is.

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    That’s too cute, Angela :)

  • Shirley@Blue Gate Farm said:

    The rooster looks like a rooster that I had several years ago with my Aracana chickens. I assumed he was an Aracana since he was in the group of Aracana pullets that I had ordered. Yes, the male slipped into the group. We didnot realize he was a rooster until he was older and began to crow!!! He was beautiful!!!!!

  • Jennyerin (@Farmarchy) said:

    My daddy always said nothing in this life is free, there’s always a catch. I guess this is so true in your case! It sounds like a situation I would find myself in. I’m very jealous of your rooster; he is so beautiful. And I think he is a Salmon Faverolles because I’ve been eyeing the breed in the Hatchery catalog and wondering if my husband will notice if a box of chicks comes in the mail. Congratulations on your new additions!

  • Elisabeth said:

    I loved reading your story and had a good laugh. That was a lot of work for 7 chickens. How are they working out for you?

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    Oh, they’re great! Our girls are just beginning to lay again, so hopefully the new hens will give us eggs, too soon!

  • poultrymatters said:

    That new rooster is very handsome. I hope he likes the new place.

  • KevinM said:

    Kara (Resident Chicken Expert) thinks it’s a Silver Ameraucana. This one stumped her a bit because it’s not very common. It’s definitely not an Araucana; they’re often confused but they’re not the same.

  • Bonnie said:

    I am 72 years old, and wishing I could have done all that you and your family are doing! I have enjoyed you “life with chicks” to funny. Keep up the great work, your great grand children will love these stories. They manage to get better with time! God Bless

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    Hi Bonnie,

    So nice to hear from you! I’m happy to know you enjoy our crazy adventures :) Don’t be a stranger!

  • Alisha said:

    We have a rooster that looks exactly like this one. Ours is an Ameraucana and Wyandotte mix.

  • DEb said:

    How lomng did you isolate them? How did they do with mixing in with the others after their time alone? Funny story although I’m sure it wasn’t funny at the time. I never went after any free chickens not knowing how they were raised and with having to isolate them for a minimum of 2 wks. that was a problem as I ahev 1 pen in the barn for my chickens. I like the black ones.

  • Rick Dunin said:

    Your new rooster has the head of an Aracauna.

    There are several ways to catch chickens. I call one method “the ZEN Way” you totally ignore them as you walk around peacefully and when one is well within striking distance you grab them, this method works occasionally.

    Another method is the “wait until dark” method. Chickens calm down around dark and start to roost, they also have bad eye sight at night. You can usually catch them around there roosting places.

    The third and most successful method is to “corner them”. I chase them up to a corner of the fence or where the fence meets the coup. Then you move back and forth to keep them cornered till they make there escape and you pin them between the fence and your leg. This works fine with the hens and is a little more difficult with roosters, but for some reason guinea fowl are smarter and just fly up over the fence, laughing at you as they go.

    Thankfully most of my birds are homed and I raised them from eggs, but there are those days that I walk a way and yell back at them “Fine, stay out with the coyotes, owls, foxes and hawks, you darn feather brains!”

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    Deb,

    We usually isolate for a week. 2 weeks would probably be wiser, but we get impatient.

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    LOL… that’s too funny, Rick. Yeah, it’s definitely easier to wait until dark when they’re roosting. Unfortunately for us, the lady insisted we come in the late afternoon. I think she just wanted to get her kicks for the day ;)

  • Clint Trammel said:

    Have mental pictures of the chase. What a hoot! Or cluck, or cackle. Still laughing. Bet your children make that an even funnier story after they retell it a few times.

  • Laura said:

    An Araucana is a rumpless chicken, he is not an Araucana. An Ameraucana has a certain standard, he does not meet them all so he is not an Ameraucana. He is an Easter Egger which is a mix of several breeds and the Ameraucana. He should pass on the blue/green egg gene to his offspring. Sounds like quite a fun adventure. If you want some of those turkeys, let me know in the spring I will mail you some eggs.

  • Angela said:

    Those turkeys are beautiful! The rooster is an Easter Egger- I have a bunch right now and none are mean, my first EE was horrid though. They are beautiful- although I have not met many rooster who were not striking!

  • Penny Manser said:

    Love the names of the Turkeys, but I can go one better. I am a Republican and have two donkeys, named Kerry and Clinton, because they are asses and the donkey is the symbol of the Democratic Party. :-))

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