The Pea Hen Plague

I was roused from my nap writing meditation time when the entire house shook. My first thought was that Codex had finally hit the support while pulling into the garage. This would not be considered A Good Thing, so I popped on my shoes and went to investigate. No car. No garage damage. Horrible, obnoxious honking sounds from around the corner.

A very large bird had, apparently, flown into the chimney, bounced off, and was now demanding the house move aside at once. I know chickens, I know geese, and I know turkeys, but this bird was none of these. Dang, I thought to myself, the next plague is upon us.

It has been a long summer: we’ve had a couple of dog setbacks (don’t ask), the Car Complaint Conundrum (don’t ask), the Refrigerator that Seeks Revenge (don’t ask), Sasquan (you know all about that…), and what is now known as The Night of the Leeches. No, really, DO NOT ASK. So, yeah, we’ve had a series of plagues, basically.

My neighbor called. Now this neighbor has a couple of pet parrots, of which the most distinguishing characteristic is their sonic energy output. Think badly-played bugles, with feathers.

“Hi! What new pet do you have over there?” she asked excitedly. When your probably-deaf neighbor located nearly a quarter-mile away can hear this not-goose bird-thing, you will understand when I say “it was loud.”

It didn’t stop making noise, either. I chased it away from the house: this critter runs fast! I began to piece together it’s D&D entry: Flight; Medium tough; Sonic Attack (Area 200′, D6+2).

Then my neighbor came over. The bird was now pacing up and down our chain-link fence. Still loud. My neighbor and I were forced to communicate in sign-language. (Hurry up, technology, *this* is the situation emoticons would be perfect for: Bullhorn, Donald Trump’s Hair, Thanksgiving Turkey, Raised Middle Finger. Not necessarily in that order.)

“It’s a pea hen!” she shouted.

“A what?” I shouted back.

“A pea hen. Like a peacock, only a girl. She’s scared; she wants to get inside your fence; she probably thinks it’s her home.” Let’s all say it together now, No good deed goes unpunished. I opened the gate, the bird rapidly scooted in. Finally, mercifully, the peahen shut up. It wouldn’t last.

“What do they eat?” I asked.

“Grain, bugs, basically what chickens eat.”

Sure, I thought, but not your $2/lb chicken store feed. This is a Pea Hen: I bet it’ll demand the $28.99/lb Whole Foods variety. Gold-foil wrapped with perfect proportions. You wouldn’t want your Pea Hen to get too fat, would you?

Ms. Hen starts honking again, demanding dinner, I assume.

Neighbor leaves. Codex arrives home. Manages to park in garage. “This will be fun,” I say, “come see our latest crisis.” Codex is less than thrilled to see our new guest. We’re still getting over Terri the Potato. So Codex hops on the internet to figure out what to do. I hop on the internet to find recipes. We handle crises in different ways.

The next morning: 6:42am. That was the exact time the bird went off. She’d flown to the top of our pergola during the night, and proceeded to pace across it for an hour, screaming at the top of her lungs. Then the stupid bird managed to find the dog door. D&D Addenda: Self-Preservation Skill = none. Dog #1 is down to three legs. Dog #2 is recovering from surgery. Neither needs to run outside and make a new friend, so we have them shut in. Hen screams at back door for the next 90 minutes.

The Seattle Seahawk football season opening game came on. I volunteered to stay home from church as Dog #2 cannot be left alone yet. Obnoxious television announcers or obnoxious pea hen? Tough choice: I kept the game on mute. At 10:32am the bird issued a final, heaving, honk and flew out of the yard, back into the wild.

I’m not sure if it will be a coyote, an eagle, a bobcat, a bear, or a deer (just for spite), but something will get the thing. Nature has provided no way for the pea hen to stay alive unaided.

Now watch nature prove me wrong. She probably went for reinforcements.

24 thoughts on “The Pea Hen Plague

  1. Oh, that made me laugh…really hard. I have heard pea….what do you call the species consisting of pea cocks and pea hens?…pea beasts scream. I can’t imagine having to listen to that for more than a moment?

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        1. No idea, first thing that came up for “peacock species” was Wikipedia. Next couple of things on the list confirmed it. I guess Wikipedia was right about something… this time 😉

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        2. Peacock is a very old word, imported from the latin word for the beast: pavo. According the the OED the peacock and peahen are from pavon, pavo –> po’cock and pava–> po’hen. It seems to have been imported into all the old languages. The peacock was the signal beast of Juno, so it makes sense, after all.

          “Cognate with Middle Dutch pāu (Dutch pauw ), Old Saxon pao (Middle Low German pāwe , pāw , German regional (Low German) pau ), Old High German pfāwo , pfāho , pfāo (Middle High German pfāwe , pfā , German Pfau ), Icelandic pá , pái , Old Swedish pā (in pāfughl ; Swedish påfågel ), Old Danish pa , pai (as nickname, beside pofowel peacock; Danish på” (Source: O.E.D.)

          A cognate is “pawn” (pavon) which is a very old word for the peacock used as a heraldic charge.

          What’s funny, (to me) is that “peacock” from the latin word is very old: 1175 in earliest uses. Later on “pea-hen” (1300s) and “peafowl” (1760s) show up.

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  2. They’re… um, known to be quite good at self-preservation (there are several feral populations here on the island. I keep planning to eat one. So far failing. That, in the ‘surviving cunning hungry predators’ index means they get a very high score.) and notoriously exceptionally noisy in their telling you they still live. Loudly. Usually at an unreasonable hour to try to tempt you to change that.

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      1. No, so far my attempts have been restricted to the 12 gauge and unseasonable hours method. I have caught wild ducks, wild geese, wild turkeys and even quail by methods that Elmer Fudd would not attempt, up to and including climbing 60 foot up trees at night after them, and using fishing nets.

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        1. That sounds very dedicated. And comedic. I look forward to the tale of glorious capture and detailed cooking instructions.

          “The Pea Hen was a clever beast, but no match for a dryer, bucket of glue, and antique cricket bat. Watching Scooby Doo reruns finally paid off!”

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          1. Eh, the tree-climbing lark was close to crazy. Not that I can’t climb but you grab bird by the legs – both legs – or the claws are gonna rip you up -and then as breaking a big turkey’s neck with no hands was a trick too many, climbing back down with the damn turkey hanging upside down, in one hand, flapping like fury and letting you know it wasn’t happy… and all the other turkeys in the tree ‘bombing’ as they do when disturbed (it’s not just seagulls). The branches are slippery with the tokens that have been historically deposited, the turkey is fighting back, and if you fall you’ll end up with too many broken bits of tree through you to bother patching either the tree or you… yeah. Probably crazy. But you don’t have to worry about breaking your teeth on shot, though. Gill-netting for birds works quite well.

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        2. I tell your Turkey adventure to friends and family who take up wild turkey hunting here in the USA (though I wait until after the climbing and grabbing the feet bit to mention they are feral, not the spot a hunter in camo that doesn’t match the scenery just exactly from a hundred yards away that some of ours turn into during hunting season (many of them turn into stupid beasts the other portions of the year for some reason).
          Only one has said they’d like to try the “grab ’em by the feets” method, but he is a bit crazy … well we are related.

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  3. I lady friend from way back online days (my Fearless Leader) had a peafowl infestation. To the point opening a KFP franchise (finger licking good!) was considered. One of her complaints was it looked like she did not clean up behind her dogs …. who often were using the Roof for a , um, dump site.
    She had several lurking about the poodle ranch, and yes, think of not just one sounding off, but then several others deciding that, no, that was a poor attempt, lets top that, and replying in kind. She said some oriental folks came by and asked to buy them, so she said if they did the catching they could have the beasts.
    Thinks got a lot quieter after a few weeks of folks sneaking about with nets chasing down large poultry.

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    1. “…several others deciding that, no, that was a poor attempt, lets top that…”

      … and a window-shattering good time was had by all. Except for the insurance company, because I imagine the paperwork for such an incident would be all manner of complicated. Particularly because it would involve all the residences in a five-mile radius…

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      1. I think she should have gotten a back up choir of Guinea Fowl to add to the cacophony, so if you hen returns with friends, maybe you could give it a try!

        I’d recommend using .50BMG style ear protection (earplugs and ear muffs)

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