Squawking and banging came from outside. I walked to the back porch to investigate. A pair of chickens was scoping out in the carport. I grabbed a broom and chased them with it, and they scampered away, flapping frantically.
It isn’t my first choice to live in the jungle, but I do. And, animals, which humans have brought from somewhere and let go wild for some reason, roam around my yard. I’m not an outdoor-camp person and prefer a hotel room with a jacuzzi. I’m also a responsible person and, after my husband died, I stayed in the jungle to take care of the dogs that he left me with. I could’ve moved, you’d say. I could’ve. Instead, I stayed in the jungle and traded the traveling-around-the-world job for a minimal position in town. After working 9-to-5 nearly killed me, I decided if I maintain a frugal lifestyle, I could live off the savings and quit. The people I felt close to ended up moving away, and I became the recluse who lived with the two dogs that nobody wanted to pet. I had socially distanced myself long before COVID-19 was born.
A few days after I confronted the pair, I found the hen sitting on top of the mound of garden gloves on the shelf in the carport. I grabbed the broom and started to swing at her, expecting her to jump away. She remained on the spot, turning her head, keeping her eye on me. I might act mean towards intruders, but never want to harm them. I figured that she would leave before dark and let it pass.
The next morning, I found her on the same spot in the same position.
Just before noon, I saw the site empty and hurried, intending to cover up the place to prevent her from returning. When I looked in, on the nest made of garden gloves, lay six caffe-latte-colored eggs, sized about half of my fist. The shells were smooth and looked flimsy, almost transparent. I tiptoed back to the house, leaving the nest and eggs unperturbed.
The hen sat there night and day, except for brief moments during the day. I worried about her getting a cramp from sitting in one position or eating enough. I made sure the dogs kept their distance and, when going outside at night, avoided shining the light towards the carport.
A few weeks later, I heard a cacophony of high-pitched twittering and saw the hen leading a flock of tiny chicks towards the house. I ran out and shooed them away from where one of the dogs was kept. They paraded into the jungle for a day of the excursion. I let a sigh of relief out and was heading towards the house when I heard a frail tweet coming from the carport. I walked to the feathers-and-egg-shells-strewn glove nest.
It looked as if it had just come out of the shell, covered in the dark, wet feathers, its beak and eyelids trembling.
They left you.
I didn’t know what to do but remembered reading somewhere that we’re not supposed to touch wild baby birds. Mom hen would be back.
The hen did come back with her entourage at the end of that day. The nest was placed too high for her chicks to climb, and Mom hen and her chicks huddled nearby, leaving the baby bird alone on the shelf. The forlorn, high-pitched chirping faded into the hush of the night.
The following morning, after the hen and her chicks left, I inspected the nest. I didn’t hear the chirping but saw a ball of feathers. Its feathers had turned to fluffy yellow. The eyes were half-closed, though, and I thought it dead. I put on a pair of new gloves and picked up the bird. The fluffy, yellow mass rose and fell faintly. When I caressed its back, the eyelids quivered and revealed tiny, black dots before closing again. I researched what to feed the chick online, went back with a plate of moistened dog kibbles, and positioned the chick’s head next to the food. The beak moved. I surrounded the fragile bird with soft gloves and left the food and water.
Not wanting to scare Mom hen away, I frequently checked from inside the house. When I did not see Mom hen all day, I walked back to the carport. The baby bird lay where I left it. Its eyes were shut, and tiny body limp and still. The feathers swirled in the breeze, and the soggy dog food sat untouched. I cleaned up where the nest was, throwing away all the feather-tangled gloves and replacing them with rusty garden tools.
The hen and her chicks haven’t returned. But, I hear an orchestra of high-pitched chirping, muffled by the jungle, which keeps the dogs and me isolated.