No one wakes up in the morning, especially at the start of a new year, and thinks: Today I will cluck like a chicken in the middle of a church parking lot while bewildered parents in minivans drop their kids off at preschool.
But life runs afowl of logic sometimes. And so, on Thursday, even before his second cup of tea, devoted husband, dad, and newly crowned chicken whisperer Dan Aharon found himself doing just that. See, shortly before Christmas, there had been a tragic incident with the family’s beloved backyard chickens, Tiny and Mr. Peepers. From the looks of the carnage his wife, Ann Aharon, stumbled upon when she got home from work at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, there had been a violent struggle. All feathers pointed to Mr. Peepers' getting the worst of it.
Their guess: A fox had gotten both of the hens.
But there was no sign of Tiny. A search garnered no answers. The Aharons were left to assume that Mr. Peepers and Tiny had been taken to that big chicken coop in the sky. Rest In Peeps, girls.
Dan felt bad. Maybe he should have reset the timer on the coop’s electric door since it was getting dark earlier. The couple’s 11-year-old daughter, Ursula, was sad but pragmatic. They’d get some new chicks in the spring. Hakuna matata and all that.
But then this week Ann happened to be on Nextdoor, a social network where neighbors might just as soon be looking for recommendations for a good dentist or restaurant as they might be complaining about noise or trying to unload an adult Spider-Man suit.
This time it was about a chicken seen wandering around a local house of worship. “Found Chicken! We’ve had no luck corralling it. Does anyone know where its home may be? Would anyone like to take it home?”
“Could this be Tiny?” Ann wondered as she rushed to text her husband, a medical software company employee who works from home. In the six short months that they’d raised the hens, he’d learned that chickens are a lot smarter than people might realize. But could Tiny really make her way two miles, across multiple streets, from their Wyndmoor home to the Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill?
And had they stumbled upon the answer to that age-old joke: Why did the chicken cross the road?
Ann: It’s her.
Dan: That’s a lot of streets.
Ann: I know that chicken!
Marital marching orders sometimes leave little room for follow-up questions. As Dan hatched his search-and-rescue plan, he grabbed a cat carrier, some dried bugs, and some grilling gloves — “It was all I had” ― in case a few traumatic weeks on the mean streets of Chestnut Hill had turned Tiny into a tough. Parents arriving at the church didn’t know what to make of the man making strange noises in the parking lot. But mid-squawk, a woman yelled over: “Are you looking for the chicken?” She directed Dan to an area with trees nearby. And there was a chicken.
He texted Ann a picture, and a bit of a humblebrag, truth be told, since the onetime theater major knew he’d owned his performance:
“I hope you understand that I stood in this busy church parking lot making chicken noises with all the parents showing up for the day care.”
Ann was thrilled. “Tiny! You found her? Ursula will be so happy.”
Neighbors on Nextdoor rejoiced.
“I’m so glad Tiny was reunited with her family! What a happy ending!”
Not one to deliberately throw egg at the celebration, Ann privately harbored some doubts.
“It’s the comb,” she confided. “It’s just a lot bigger than Tiny’s comb …”
Dan did a little research and found that the color of the comb, that red thing on top of a chicken’s head for youse city folk, can change size and color, depending on factors like stress and diet.
Maybe the streets had changed Tiny. Or maybe it’s not Tiny at all.
Whatever the truth, Ann decided, the hen was welcome.
“This chicken no doubt has been through adventures of her own and we will do our best to take good care of her …” Ann said.
And if the well-traveled feathered friend is actually Tiny 2.0?