May 18, 2014 – Great balls of steaming cow flaps! What was supposed to have been a quiet day turned out to be a humdinger! I was mid-slurp with a worm I’d extracted seconds before when a commotion broke out in the run of Coop #1. Charlotte and Addie were screeching! Emaline swooned and plopped over the water stand. Peaches kept repeating the same phrase… “Oh me, oh my. Oh me, oh my.” From where I was standing I couldn’t see what the source of the issue was, but clearly something unnatural was going on.
Bo and Tim heard it too. They sent warning signals echoing into every direction. I raced into my coop and grabbed my colander helmet and emergency apparatus. Sawyer and Wilma did the same.
“We’re under seize!!” I called into my bullhorn. “CODE RED!! CODE RED!!”
I sent the pullets to man the oversize slingshot shooter we keep in the rear of the chicken yard, while Waffles, Betty and Hattie retrieved a bushel of water balloons we keep on hand for hawk sightings. From the whooping and hollering coming from the Orpington ladies, this was a crisis situation and we acted accordingly.
By the time I reached the run, Mom was already there wielding a bamboo pole.
“What is it?!” I cried over the turmoil.
“RAT!” Mom returned the cry.
RAT? We don’t have rats around here! How could a…..WHOAAAAAA!!!
Before I had a chance to finish my thought, a long-tailed, two-toned rodent ran out of the run, stopping on my feet to take a breath. MY FEET!!! I looked down at its pointy face – it looked up at mine, and we both started screaming.
The little rat turned and shot back into the run where Mom and the Orpingtons were still themselves expressing fear in earsplitting decibels. Feeling cornered, it then turned and ran into the coop where Mom slammed the door behind it.
The first thing she did was to make sure we were all fine. Charlotte explained how she and the girls were relaxing in the run when out of the blue the rat showed up. It didn’t hurt them, she didn’t take their eggs or food, though Charlotte supposed the little rat was hungry which is perhaps why she showed up in the first place.
“It was cream and white,” Peaches interjected. “It was cream and white. That’s not what the rats look like in our predator posters. This one didn’t snarl or stand on its legs. It was scared just like us.”
“What should we do,” I asked Mom. “The slingshots are aimed and ready to go.”
Mom had us stand down until she reasoned everything through.
“Peaches is right,” she said a few minutes later. “A wild rat doesn’t look like that. This must have been a domesticated rat.”
“Does this mean the rat is French?” Peaches inquired, suddenly relieved. “I watched the movie, “Ratatouille” the other night. Ratatouille was a rat and he was a French chef. People thought the man was the chef but it was the rat. If the customers of the restaurant knew that the rat was the chef they wouldn’t have eaten the food. That’s just wrong. Follow your dreams is what I always say. Ratatouille lived his dream. He didn’t care if he was a rat or not. Maybe that’s where the saying comes from… I don’t give a rat’s…”
“PEACHES!!” We shouted, snapping our friend from her altruistic reverie.
“I’m going in,” Mom declared without warning and opened the people door to the henhouse. Two minutes later, the little rat was in her hands. She placed it in a carrier for safekeeping. We sneaked a quick look in through the mesh window.
“Hello,” the little rat said timidly. “I’m sorry if I scared you all. I’m so very far from home and I don’t know what to do.”
I felt like a crumb. I was about to bombard the creature with rotten apples and here it was, a helpless soul simply trying to find its way.
“I’m Happy. This is Sawyer, Wilma, Charlotte, Addie… eh, never mind. Just know that we won’t hurt you. Where are you from?”
“I don’t know,” said the little rat shyly. “I had lived in a nice house with nice humans, but someone left the front door open and the air smelled like oranges so I followed the scent. I guess I wandered so far that I got lost.”
Awwww. Now we all felt horrible for scaring the little thing.
“Don’t worry,” said Peaches. “Our Mom will find your humans or find you new ones. She’s good like that.”
Then we all turned and looked up at Mom who was standing over us, dumbstruck.
“She’s heard us speak before, right?” Addie whispered to Charlotte.
“MOM!” I said, tugging her pant leg. “What are we going to do?”
Mom knelt down in front of the carrier so she could see the little rat up close.
“I don’t know how you ended up in our chicken yard, little one, but the girls have a point. We need to find your humans or find you a new family. We’ll make sure that you are taken care of and have a wonderful future.”
Mom explained to us and to little rat that she was going to take her to the farm where Tim came from. The people there are very nice and find homes for animals that don’t have one. We all thought it was a wonderful idea – especially little rat.
When Mom got home from dropping little rat off at the farm, she came to see us. She thanked us for being so brave today and for being so compassionate to a stranger – especially one whose relatives appear on our predator poster. She said that little rat was in fine hands, content and snuggling up with the people from the farm. They are going to put her story on the computer. If her first family doesn’t see it, her forever family will. She also promised to tell us when little rat finally goes home.
What a day! Right now I’m kicking up my feet watching the ballgame with Wilma and Sawyer. I’m thinking of little rat and wishing her well. We all are.