Wild chickens in suburbia

we lived on a farm for the first eight years of my life, I was
introduced to chickens after we moved into town.  Our city block
was home to a seemingly wild band of roving poultry that roosted in the
trees, nested in brushy thickets, and scrounged for their food.  I
asked my mother what she remembered about our wild chickens and her
tale gives some insight into how chickens live in the wild.

— Anna

Feeding chicks of the wild chickensSo far, the easiest to find photo of
“our” wild chicks is one taken in ’97 of Maggie [Anna’s sister] with a
flock of little chicks, feeding them out of her hands on the
front porch. But we arrived 10 years earlier, in ’87, and I could swear
those chicks were there when we got there! I wonder if you remember how
they would rush across the street, usually from some big trees on our
across and down to the big maple and hemlocks, where they also got fed,
by the old lady who lived alone in a house that has now been torn down.

At that time, Reggie M.
[a neighbor] lived near us, before his house burned,
probably in ’89 or so. Around that
time, at least by ’90, Errol [Anna’s father] had set out rhubarb and
asparagus over at the
edge of the side yard property where Reggie’s house used to be. 
And this is where the wild chickens would scratch around, where they
had nests, and even where the chicks hatched!

What kind were they? I
think they were connected to the game fowl that ran wild in a cemetery
a few miles away. While we still had the side yard,
they were pretty balanced, that is, about as many hens as roosters.
the roosters did crow every morning! And, yes, there were at least
different flocks of little chicks rushing around, with one batch in our
backyard sometimes having a problem of falling in the pond out
back! Somehow there were fewer cars on the street then, and the young
who sped by usually tried to slow down, especially if they were going
to visit Reggie, who also fed the chickens scraps of his breakfasts.

Do you remember a pelting
rain–or even hail–one June, that drove
one flock to shelter under a rhubarb plant? I hope you remember eating
their eggs! I think you also remember the stray dog we saved, who had
survived on eggs and beer from tossed beer cans.

I know you remember when
you brought a frozen rooster and hen that
had dropped out of one of the trees, up here to a box in the Playhouse,
with a hot-water bottle and a heating lamp to revive them! And these
were about the only survivors of that killing late-spring storm,
in ’97. Or so we thought. The little chicks Maggie is feeding on the
had some scrawny rooster uncles, and by the next year the balance
hens and roosters was all off. Suddenly there seemed to be only one or
hens, and too many roosters by far–and drivers now tried to even the
balance. In fact, with all the roosters, the mating, and the crowing,
Jackson [another neighbor] stepped in.

By that time the sheltering
rhubarb and asparagus had been
forcibly relocated to the back yard, where George also was tied. Now
big old honeysuckle bush I’ve still kept was the roosting spot for the
strongest roosters, and there seemed to be no little chicks able to

I knew they were in
trouble, but thought Nature would take its
course, even though I realized, with the end of “our” side yard our
neighborhood was becoming more suburban, more gentrified.

There were just too many
crowing roosters for Jackson, who hired a
man and his son to catch them and take them away. At first I tried to
protest, for after all, they were coming in my yard to get them! But
fact was, I had never really adopted them to care for them. So when I
to be away, with George, too, they all were caught except two. Even
last two finally were caught, at dusk one day, but not before the
wildest rooster had flown to crow his last from the top of our house!
But he had
to roost somewhere, and it was back to the bush, and caught in the
for him.

week I’ll be sharing other stories of chicken flocks I have
known.  If you’ve got a chicken story you’d like to share, be sure
to comment!  Otherwise, check out our homemade chicken
, great in coops and tractors.

This post is part of our Chicken Pasturing Systems series
Read all of the entries:

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