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!!!