A couple of years ago, I wrote the story of Er-Er, an adopted rooster-to-be, accidentally (we think) abandoned by his mother before he was ready to live independently, who was scooped up by chicken raiders -- something that occurs every couple of years in our chicken-ambivalent town of San Ignatio. (Colorful Mexican chickens wandering the streets are the trademark of our little historical town, but every few years the membership of the City Council changes and some vocal opponents of chickens convinces the council to open the city doors to chicken nabbers -- even to pay them $5 per chicken for the roundup.) And, so, we lost our Er-er.
I had not thought much about Er-er in recent days, but yesterday, as I was leaving Old Mission, a mother hen with two teenage hens-to-be in tow walked right up to me as I stood beside car to open the door. In fact, she had to cross the street to get to me. She looked at me, turned her head to make sure her teens were in tow, and then all three looked at me and did not move even as I opened the door, got in the car, and very slowly and carefully drove off. I looked in the rear-view mirror, and they were still standing in the middle of the lane, watching me. I wondered if the hen might have been one of Er-er's siblings, whom we fed, along with his mother, from the time they were little chicks until they were teens and the mother shooed them out of the nest. At one time, I even rescued them from a marauding stray dog while the mother clucked furiously from a tree top, wrenching one little chick out of the dog's mouth and returning him unharmed to his mother (not the smartest thing I have ever done).
It seemed as if this hen thought she knew me, and the encounter was as if she were introducing me to her offspring. Who knows? Chickens are not supposed to have memories at all, but all these chicks knew where their "home" was, and even when Er-er would wander away and I would find him several streets away, if I hollered to him, "Er-er, go home and eat breakfast," he would lift his head and make a beeline for the house. As I said, who knows? Why does a chicken cross the road? Perhaps, in this case, to introduce her chicks to Aunt Beth.