May 19, 2022 - News

What a parent learned by clipping a young hen's wing

A beautiful chicken who likes to fly the coop.
Rowena Ravenclaw. Photo: Ben Montgomery/Axios

Hey there. Farmer Ben, here.

I'm raising a beautiful slate-gray Blue Star pullet that really does not like me.

What's happening: I don't know what I did to offend Rowena Ravenclaw, but she and her little Barred Plymouth Rock sidekick, Helga Hufflepuff, spend their days trying to escape the beautiful world I've built for them.

Why it matters: In her garden pen, she has shelter, food and water. She's safe.

  • Outside the pen, she's in constant danger.

Threat level: An osprey perches on a nearby power line, and the neighbor's cat creeps around at dusk.

Flashback: Her predecessors — Lil' Pat, Hope Solo, etc. — learned the cost of adventure.

Yes, but: Rowena Ravenclaw only wants to be outside the coop.

The latest: She has learned to fly.

  • When I turn my back, she furiously flaps over the 4-foot fence.

What I did: Grabbed scissors and held her close, splaying one wing out so the last and longest feathers — the flight feathers — were exposed.

  • Then: snip.

It didn't hurt Rowena, and you only have to do one wing to keep the bird grounded.

The rub: As Rowena scrambled away, cursing my name, the power of the paradox hit me.

  • One benevolent snip kept her home, safe. It also stole her freedom, and any chance she had of seeing the outside world.

The big picture: It's commencement season for lots of us, caps and gowns and family in town. We mark time by these days. A few blinks ago, the kids were squeezing our hands as we met the kindergarten teacher on the first day of school.

  • Now look at them. So many new flight feathers.
  • My daughter graduates from Hillsborough High on Tuesday then heads to Harvard in the fall — 1,400 miles from Tampa.

The bottom line: I'm scared to death. Maybe you are, too.

  • We've had them in the coop for 18 years, safe and sound. But it's their time to fly. Let's put the scissors down and help each other through this.
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