Now that the dog is gone and my wife and I have accepted our “empty nest” situation, it appears that the vacuum has caused a disturbance in nature and as a result we have suddenly “acquired” a chicken.

We were simply eating breakfast on our backyard deck when this chicken wandered onto our property from, I’d say, about due south. I didn’t know anything about chickens except that this one looked completely different than the ones they have at the grocery store and at Colonel Sanders.

This is the first chicken that’s invaded our yard in 27 years of living here, if you call this “living,” which sometimes my wife doesn’t. She constantly reminds me that the house is not finished since remodeling has stalled for several years, as if I need reminding. If the reminders come any more frequently I will have to consider myself henpecked.

Anyway, we have a neighbor two houses down to the south that keeps a few chickens for reasons I am certain are private. I would never be so audacious as to ask him why. My wife phoned to inquire if he was missing a chicken and Mike T. walked right over because he is a very conscientious chicken warden who would never allow one of his chickens to eat the neighbor’s backyard bugs.

I noticed that he was holding a container with what I assumed to be chicken feed as it did not look to be very expensive. He shook the container in the general direction of the chicken but did not dispense any of its contents in a deft move to save on feed whilst attracting the chicken. The noise the container made did not have any effect and the chicken kept her distance.

When I referred to the chicken as “him,” Mike reminded me that the chicken was female. This immediately betrayed my knowledge of chickens which I was attempting to mask with clever comments about Mike’s skill with fowl.

After getting a good look, Mike declared that the hen was not from his coop and started to walk away. Something did not seem right: he was a member of the chicken raising fraternity and we were outsiders who were not privy to the rites and formalities associated with chicken devotion. I inquired as to what might be our next step and he said if the chicken came to him he would put her in the coop and maybe someone would come looking for her.

Well, this was not part of the chicken’s plan. She stayed in our yard and feasted on whatever delectable fauna live under our leaf piles. She seemed delighted with the insects and other soil dwellers which up to this point led a carefree life consuming microbes and forest litter without the threat of hungry chickens.

So I contacted my sister who knows chickens because she produces ceramic chickens in her garage art studio and is also somewhat of a lady farmer (as opposed to, say, a gentleman farmer). She maintains three live chickens probably as models for her porcelain production chickens. She also keeps them for amusement and was excited to tell me that they eat almost anything. In the same note she mentioned that she gave them a cup of dirt and it kept them busy for an hour.

She did not say why she gave them the dirt but I am sure it was with no expectations, just to see what would happen. She taught high school art classes for years and it’s likely she learned the cup-of-dirt technique experimenting on her students.

It’s been a week now and the chicken still persists. When it started to rain I moved the old dog house into the general vicinity and she accepted the shelter graciously.

But the chicken is not like the dog. We have not yet made physical contact and are unlikely to do so, nor shall we invite the chicken into our home. That was a big mistake with the dog because once he got a taste of indoor living he was unrelenting in his insistence to be part of the household population.

Please, if this is your chicken, save us. Come fetch it before my wife and the bird develop any stronger bonds. It is big, and appears to have feathers — and a red thingy on its head. See? I’ve already learned more about chickens than a guy should ever want to know.