Return of the Prodigal Chicken: A Holiday Story

Most people ate turkey on Thanksgiving.  Us?  We came home from the holiday feast with a live chicken.

Last May, our older chickens went into Urban Chicken Retirement at my Uncle Joe’s farm in Maple Valley.  We’ve taken our aging flocks there in the past, where they  nibble away their golden years in wide sun-dappled meadows with horses as friends.  This year, since our chickens came to the farm, Joe has lost two cats and three of our four chickens, presumably to coyotes!  When we arrived for Thanksgiving festivities, we learned that the only chicken left happened to be our favorite-ever chicken, Marigold the Buff Orpington (of the famous Chicken Walk).  She was doing what any of us would do after seeing our colleagues picked off one by one by a toothed predator–she was hiding in a box in the barn, and hardly ever came out.

Joe's farm has a beautiful old barn and outbuildings.
Next to Marigold's box--another dusty treasure. Maybe I'll use this to finish the book I'm writing!
Marigold's Hiding From Coyote Box.

Poor Marigold! We didn’t think twice–we picked her up, dusty barn-box and all, and took her home.

It took a few days for everyone to work out the new pecking order, and we watched over them carefully as Marigold integrated with the existing flock, but now they are happy together, and Marigold is back to her old tricks.  She’s taught the other chickens how to climb up on the porch and peck at the back door for attention.

Introducing a new chicken takes several days, sometimes more. But it's usually safe to put them together in the roost after they are settled in the dark.
Ethel the Barred Rock was particularly disgruntled at first.
One happy chicken-family.

Urban chicken keeping is great for fresh eggs, sure, but sometimes it’s just a matter of the heart.  Welcome home Marigold.



  1. Mindy

    Oh, what a sweet story. Yes, a matter of the heart. If chickens pray, it sounds like Marigold’s prayers were answered – how wonderful to be scooped up and carried home to live again with her beloved family, and no more coyotes to threaten her. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Mindy

    Wanted to come back and tell you I loved this story so much, I shared it on my Facebook page. By the way, are those little Tibetan prayer flags in the hen house photo? They look great in there. 🙂

    1. lyanda

      Tracie–Thank you! Yes, viva Marigold!

      Mindy–thanks so much for your sweet comments, and for sharing the story. And yes, those are tiny Tibetan prayer flags.

      Andrew–Red-tailed. Wow.

  3. I am so happy Marigold has found a way back to your home. She always seemed more like a pet than livestock, and I was sad to see her go. Glad she’s back and teaching her tricks to the youngsters.

  4. Pingback: Urban Chicken Retirement: What to do when older chickens stop laying?

  5. Frances

    I hope Marigold is still up and pecking, not to mention getting rides.

    We adopted 21 chickens from a neighbor who was going to kill them because they were 2 years old. That was 12 years ago. 3 are still alive: Randy the Rooster, Copper the Americana and Yellow Eye the Americana. Randy is especially social.

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