The first time I was bwave enough to mention to a friend that I wished for chickens, she looked at me like I had two heads. For the eggs I explained. Eggs??? You can get eggs at the gas station for like 99 cents a dozen. Exactly. Well, it took several years to get my wish.
Chickens... part of that sustainable, self reliant, low impact, local, healthy and dammit unattainable life for which I continually grasp. I'd read all about raising chickens in Mother Earth News, and had a few books of course. When we moved to a house with a yard, I responsibly called the municipal office to inquire about local chicken rules. The guy hung up on me. Hmmm...
For a few years, chickens were on the back burner.
Then one day, a fairy godmother knocks on our front door. Ms. Maria from across the street. Very sweet, very ethereal a little kooky
She's has an "assignment". She needs to give away a white egg, and white chocolate. She hands Mia a hard boiled egg, and a small box of candy. oooh treats. Then she says, now if I only knew someone who wanted a white chicken. B says Michelle is dying for chickens. There you go.
Three days later Ms. Maria drops off a White Plymoth Rock and a Rhode Island Red. They can't be alone, she explains. So you have to have at least 2. OK fine with me.
I rigged up a temporary coop out of an old doggy crate.
Spent the next 2 weeks building a movable coop. It's pretty cool. Has a nesting box, an enclosed area with a perch for sleeping, and a mini run with chicken wire walls. The kids and I could move it around the yard using lengths of PVC pipe as rollers and I'd talk to them about Stonehenge ok mom, the coop is moved, can we go back to our video games now? Not nearly as elegant and plumb as some coops, but I was quite satisfied.
During the day Barbara and Laura were the poster girls for free range hens. In the morning they would pace back and forth in the run until the door was opened for them. They'd roam the yard all day long clucking their happy chicken clucks. At sunset they'd march right into their coop, and we'd lock them up for the night. That first egg was like a miracle. And each egg thereafter was just as exciting.
This is Barbara
big and white
This is Laura
Funny. Once you spend a little time with chickens, it's easy to see how all those American euphemisms came into being. Pecking order, chickens comin' home to roost, hen pecked, flew the coop.
Our backyard is fenced in, and borders the elementary school. About a week into chickening, I noticed Barbara perched on the back fence. Shit. Here chickie chickie chickie. Over the fence she goes into the school parking lot. shit shit shit shit. B's about to leave for work. B, you gotta help me get the fucking chicken. Oh, Chica you're kidding. B drives the minivan and I go on foot. There we are running around the school property like chickens with our heads cut off trying to corner and catch this damn bird. We're both completely wigged out at the idea of having to pick the thing up. Chica, what do you mean you don't know how to hold it? Well I kinda just dumped them out of the box they came in onto the grass. We finally bagged the bird with an old sheet and don't you know, the darned thing fell asleep as soon as her head was covered. just like they say.
After several other escapades, I figure out how to clip wings . And it worked.
No more flying the coop.
But alas, fall came, and with it early sunsets and night marauders. Raccoons.
A raccoon took out Barbara. Gruesome.
Laura wandered around for days, crying. Yes, I really think she was crying, her clucking sounded so sad and lost. She was disoriented. She wouldn't eat. She stopped laying. When we were out on the patio, she'd come sit under my chair, just like the dog. The kids thought she was confused by not having anyone to be a chicken with.
I think she was sitting shiva for her friend Barbara.
Someone said you'd better get her some friends or she's gonna die
a Light Brahma
it looks like she's wearing ostrich feathered mules
and Lil' Babs
a Barred Plymouth Rock
she's the plain sister
All the chickens lived happily ever after in our yard, scratching and pecking and laying yummy eggs. The kids loved them. The dog tolerated them. And they didn't fly away cause I clipped their wings...
Right. I clipped their wings. And this past fall, all three were taken out by nasty predators, maybe because they couldn't fly to safety. Brutal.
I miss the chickens. Don't know if I'm bwave enough to try again. Maybe. We'll see...