In search of ponies: Hen’s duck act ends tragically

The laughter on the other end of the phone line was predictable.

“A chicken?” my Mom asked.

“Yes, a chicken. I had two but the other one drowned,” I replied.

She stifled her laughter long enough to issue an, “Awww….”

“But what about the drought? How did a chicken drown?”

It was a valid question.

Somehow, in this barren and dry land, Raquel the hen managed to not only find water, but water deep enough to drown.

And, as I discovered, apparently my horses aren’t keen on chicken broth.

I found her at morning feeding time.

I thought it odd that Molly, her companion hen, met me at the gate alone and followed me to the barn.

I looked around for the black and white speckled lady, but when I didn’t find her, I assumed she was off laying her morning egg.

Until I checked to make sure the horses — who were eyeing their water tank suspiciously — had plenty of water for the day.

And there she was floating just below the surface.

I felt bad. Really bad.

Last summer a crow or two were found floating in the horse tanks, but I never even thought about it when the chickens came to live with us.

It’s one of those “too much of a good thing,” lessons. Just because you want or need something doesn’t mean you will survive being immersed in it.

I guess the cool thing about ducks is they are better designed to float upright and their feathers don’t get bogged down when wet.

Chickens, not so much.

I assume Raquel must have done one of her low, short bursts of flight into the tank but, once wet, couldn’t get free of it.

Since the drowning, I have learned why I often noticed planks of wood floating in horse tanks at friends barns.

They’re chicken (and crow) savers.

As one friend told me, struggling, soggy birds always seem to find their way to the floating raft and then to safety.

But Molly hasn’t shown the slightest interest in the water trough and instead seems to stay clear of it.

In fact, I don’t know how traumatic the Raquel incident was or what she saw, but she has become a bit clingy since.

And she shadows anyone that comes around, clucking and carrying on as if in the hope that someday, someone will respond to her in chicken-speak.

Sometimes I even think she hides her egg every morning to prolong the amount of time she has visitors in the barnyard.

A friend offered me a rooster to keep her company, which I politely declined, not wanting to breed chicks that draw in predators or feed the neighborhood feral cats.

I think Molly will get along just fine on her own.

Instead of venturing out into the field or exploring, Molly has adopted the horses as her companions and sticks close to the barn, weaving in and out of their feet in search of alfalfa leaves.

I think it’s good all the way around, providing her the company she seeks and getting them conditioned to “flighty” noisy things.

But if it becomes obvious that she’s too lonely, another suggestion was to get her a recording of chicken conversation.

Either way, if she wants to pretend she’s a horse and become part of their little herd, it’s fine with me. In fact anything she does to adapt is fine with me — as long as she never gets the wild idea she’s a duck.

Sharna Johnson is a staff writer for Freedom New Mexico. She can be reached at sjohnson@cnjonline.com