The feather-covered chicken leg, complete with a foot, laying near the welcome mat on the front porch one Sunday morning a few months back barely caught my attention.
It wasn’t until my husband questioned the chicken leg’s presence that it occurred to me that it wasn’t quite normal to have a stray leg just laying on our porch.
That’s how I know I grew up on a farm.
As a kid, we had pigs, beef cattle…and farm dogs. With farm dogs around, it was never especially surprising to see a random animal part laying on the lawn. Some of my best anatomy lessons came from deciphering what exactly it was that Buster hauled up on the lawn to chew. Disgusting? Yes. But it is honest. Farm dogs find the best chew toys in the least desirable places.
With that in mind, a stray chicken leg didn’t seem like any cause for alarm. Once my husband mentioned the leg, however, I had an epiphany, “Hey wait a minute, WE have chickens.” Generally speaking, that shouldn’t be much of an epiphany. In my defense, my mind was racing between getting kids out the door to church and then heading to Grandma’s.
Pondering the rightful owner of the chicken leg planted a sinking feeling in my stomach. Our dog is just naughty enough to not really be trusted to leave chickens alone. Gulp. While my husband loaded the wood burner, I headed to the shed to do a little animal welfare check.
Walking into the shed, a quick scan revealed our three chicken ladies were missing from their usual hangout on the gate railing.
I kept looking, expecting to see bits of chicken feathers or some sort of evidence of chicken destruction. Finally, my eyes found some relief. The three chickens were all standing close together on the floor.
Instantly, though, it stuck me as odd. They all seemed closely huddled together, were hanging out in a corner where I’ve never seen them before, and they were on the floor. Usually they prefer sitting up on a higher vantage point.
Then I saw it.
The middle chicken was standing on only one leg.
My heart sank. My mind raced in a million directions. What in the world do I do with a one-legged chicken? Do I have to put her out of her misery? And how should I do that? I really should know how to butcher a chicken. Can chickens live on one leg , like dogs can live with three? Could she maybe just hop from here on out?
As I pondered my predicament, I looked for blood spots on her and the floor. I couldn’t see anything, and surprisingly, she didn’t look like she was in pain. Perhaps she dropped the leg as simply as one of those lizards that can lose their tail? She seemed to adapt so quickly to the loss.
Soon enough, I had my answer.
When the two other chickens shifted slightly, she stirred and moved. As she shifted, she uncurled her leg that had been tucked up and placed it on the floor, as normal as ever. Yep, normal. Two legs, fully functional and intact. My life suddenly felt much easier.
Turns out, she just tucked up her leg to be cozy on a chilly day.
As for the chicken leg on the porch, a nice man in a large blue truck relocated it to a more suitable long-term resting place.
We may never know the full story. All of the forensics experts seem to be occupied with other investigations. A coyote is a “person of interest” in the case. Last fall, a chicken disappeared on the very day that a neighbor spotted a coyote in the field next to our house. Neither the chicken nor the coyote have been seen since.
RIP Chicken foot. Long may you scratch in that big chicken coop up in the sky.