A chicken separated from her flock is stupid and panicky and stubborn. Why would she go to back to the coop when the alcove under the barberry is right there? Why would she be guided home when doubling back makes so much more sense?
The chicken stick is a roosting bar that fell out of a smaller coop, back in those dreamy days when I had three birds instead of twenty-two, and the most trouble they got into was plucking one another’s tail feathers.
The chicken stick works best with two people: one to spook the hen and the other to sweep the stick low so she can’t out run us both. If I’m fast and can switch the stick from hand to hand without dropping it, I can convince her I’m serious on my own.
She believes her options are limited. She could hurdle over the stick with the leap she uses to pick chokeberries from the middle branches, or she could fly back over the fence. When she is scared, she forgets she can fly. The stick is coming for her.
I shuffle her onward and narrow her path, until she runs inside the pop door and away from the terrible brown thing with no mouth still trying to eat her. Everything wants to eat her.
The stick is coming for her.
Jerica Taylor is a non-binary neurodivergent queer cook, birder, and chicken herder. Their work has appeared in Dream Journal, Stone of Madness, FERAL, and perhappened. She lives with her wife and young daughter in Western Massachusetts. Twitter @jericatruly