Susan Caldbeck stood at the edge of the chicken wire fence on her Agassiz farm, a bucket of blueberries and seed in hand. Around her were a number of donkeys — rescue donkeys, prize-winning donkeys and one donkey with scoliosis in her back — but Caldbeck didn’t pay attention to them. She only had eyes for the chickens.
“Olive. Lucky. Girlies,” she said, calling out to the two chickens in a high pitched voice reserved for pets and small children. “Where’s my chickens?”
The long, low bawck of an unimpressed chicken rose from the coop. Then, the white and red head of a Leghorn peered out.
“Oh hello Lucky,” Caldbeck said, smiling. She tossed some seeds into the run, and Lucky pecked them up, then looked around as if to ask ‘Where’s my blueberries?’
It seemed a pleasant life for a chicken, but it hadn’t been long ago that Lucky was not quite so lucky.
In early January, 55-year-old Caldbeck was looking through Facebook when she saw a post from woman who had found a chicken underneath her trailer.
“It was the rainstorm right before the snowstorm,” Caldbeck remembered. Normally, she said, she would have passed the post by.
“But then she’s like, ‘Some cat’s going to get this chicken,’” she said. “I’m like, really? That’s the end of it?”
Comments on the Facebook post about putting the chicken in a pot also pushed her to do something.
“This poor chicken has survived some pretty traumatic stuff already,” Caldbeck said. “She deserves a chance to live.”
“So my poor husband got home 20 minutes later, and I’m like, ‘Come on, let’s go, we’re going on a chicken wrangling mission.’”
|YLucky (front) in her coop with fellow chicken Olive. (Grace Kennedy/The Observer)|
The pair went over with a fishnet, and eventually cornered the rain-soaked chicken, scooped her up and took her home.
“She was so skinny,” Caldbeck said. “I have no idea where she came from.
“Somebody said maybe she’s a spent chicken,” she added, “so she’s finished laying her eggs and she’s going to get slaughtered.”
That didn’t deter Caldbeck though. Nor did the fact that, although she and her husband had been nominated farmers of the year when they lived in Aldergrove for their donkey breeding, she had never owned chickens before.
“I have no clue what to do with a chicken,” she said, laughing. “Give me a donkey, a horse, you know.”
Caldbeck put Lucky up in a dog kennel they converted into a chicken coop and set about creating a home for the chicken.
Her husband, called “Poor Dave” by Caldbeck’s friends, built and rebuilt a roost for Lucky 12 times. Calbeck went out and bought 88 pounds of food, because she wasn’t sure which kind of chicken feed Lucky liked best. And of course, they went out and got a friend for Lucky as well.
Olive, a deep brown chicken with flecks of black and white on her feathers, came to live with Caldbeck shortly after Lucky arrived.
With Olive’s companionship and Caldbeck’s love, Lucky prospered. Thanks to Caldbeck’s posts in the Life in Agassiz Facebook group, she became a local internet celebrity. And along the way, she found that she wasn’t a spent chicken after all.
Since Valentine’s Day, Caldbeck has gotten more than a dozen eggs from the two chickens.
“I actually told them they didn’t have to lay eggs,” Caldbeck said, laughing. “The thought of giving birth every day just seems like a really bad idea to me.”
Caldbeck hasn’t eaten any of the eggs yet — “it’s kind of weird,” she said — but has plans to increase her flock to get eggs of all different colours.
“They have to be fancy chickens if they’re going to live here. Other than Lucky,” Caldbeck added. “She’s just a boring old Leghorn, but that’s okay.”