Chasing Chickens

The clock said 3:30 p.m. I thought about taking a break. A drizzly and cold Tuesday in January needed a little something, I mused.

“Hey, Susan. What are you doing right now?”

My coworker, the city’s code enforcer, stood at the entrance to my cube. He had his coat on.

“Nothing much,” I said. The last project of the day consisted of a compiling task of epic proportions. Loathe to dive in due to all the minutiae involved, I’d waited until the end of the day to tackle it. It had no set due date.

“Good,” he said. “You can help me round up some chickens.”

What?*

I’d ridden with him before, learning the neighborhoods. Every house held a story. The writer in me thrilled to the (mostly) true stories.

“I’m surprised this house still stands. The wife tried to stab her husband,” he would say as we rolled past a dirty little pink abode.

Or, “See that garage, with the roof caving in? Seven people live there.”

My favorite:  “I saved a dog out of that house. Almost starved, locked out on the deck when his owner died. He was skin and bones, but a good boy. I carried him out. He was covered in fleas and urine. The local vet doctored him up and found him a new home. I see him from time to time.”

We checked out buildings tagged with gang graffiti. He took pictures of places filled with cats and squatters. He showed me a tired old white house with a sagging porch. We looked in the window.

“People cooked oysters in the living room. Built a fire right on the floor.” He pointed out the shells, a sharp-edged carpet.

So this time, I knew I was in for a treat. Did I mention that I love my job?

We got into the pickup and cruised up the road.

“I keep getting these calls about this dental center and some free-range chickens around the place. I’ve been out once already, hunting them up. None of the receptionists have a clue what I’m talking about,” he said, shaking his head. He found no poultry or evidence thereof. One wonders exactly how obnoxious these chickens were.

This time he had a new strategy.

“But I’m hoping with you there, we can chase them. They move as a group. When chickens run, they run to their home.  You know, where they roost at night. We can discover their dwelling.”

Sounded good to me. I guess this encompasses “other duties as assigned”. I know next to nothing about chickens, except they’re good for eating. Some are even pretty.

blue chicken

We drove up to the dental center. We parked. We did a 360-degree scope of the parking lot. No chickens in sight. We stealth-walked the clinic’s perimeter. I peeked in the windows, hoping nobody would ask us what we were up to.  I pretended we were crack detectives on a case. I found myself thankful for the boots I wore. No poop. No feathers. The muddy ground, still holding traces of yesterday’s snow, yielded nothing.

However, in the area, my driver found plenty to catalog. Cars parked on the sidewalk. Trash piled in yards. Abandoned buildings with newly broken windows where homeless now gathered.

Alas, no chickens. The mystery caller never leaves an address or phone number. The code enforcer does his best to put the pieces together.Did the chickens move inside or…does Shelton have ghost chickens?

*The City of Shelton allows homeowners up to 6 chickens within the city limits. They must be cooped, and kept in a clean, dry environment. Oh, and no roosters.

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