Our children do not love our chickens like we love our chickens. They don’t share our pleasure in the beauty of these funny fowl. They don’t find the humor in their poultriesque profile the way we do, with their oversized breasts, skinny pale white legs, and ungainly gait (the chickens, not our children). We worry about our hens in the middle of a frigid night. We feel sorry for them when daylight runs short come late October, and think how boring it must be to be so cooped up for so many dark hours. Pity them after a rainy day around the pen, their bright white feathers so bedraggled, sodden, and dark with mud.
When we insist that someone else open their hatch in the morning, we wonder if they greet the chickens with a “Good Morning, Girls!” like we do. Or, at night, if we can compel someone else to go lock them in, do they wish the hens a “Goodnight, ladies?” (Don’t think so) Who else but Bill and I stand rapt as they race down their gangplank, our noses pressed up to the mesh, to study which bits and pieces of freshly dumped compost are considered the choicest morsels? (No one else.) Doesn’t anyone else in the family get that a simple pizza crust, or the soggy remnants of their leftover cereal, or the skins from a peeled apple can brighten the day of a chicken otherwise faced with scratching around the same patch of barren dirt day after day? And, by the way, it is not crazy to bring home a restaurant doggy bag for the chickens. You know the saying: one man’s leftover salad is a chicken’s feast.
Our children generally tolerate our attitude toward the chickens--except when it involves them. The open bucket on the counter in which we collect every crumb and scraping and remnant of food is a frequent source of conflict. “Get it out of here,” Zander commands as he eats his breakfast nearby. “I can smell it, and I don’t want to look at it.” Don’t you care about the chickens? “They are low on my list of priorities right now,” he’ll say. Sure, they’ll eat those delicious eggs everyday, but what are they willing to pay for those eggs? Too little.
These days, our children are pretty useless for closing down the coop after dark. Having recently seen a spate of scary movies and having been introduced to the delicious terror of the Ouija board, they will not set foot out near the coop in the blackness. So it’s me or Bill, unless the kids can be coerced to go as a team, armed with flashlights. We just can’t risk leaving the hatch open over night. The chickens are sitting ducks against those clever creatures of the night, the foxes and raccoons. During the day, should the chickens make a break from their pen, which sometimes happens, it’s as good as serving them on a silver platter to the hawks that find their heads the most delectable part. (These are some of the ways we went from an original flock of 30, down to six.)
People wonder why we keep chickens? “Lawn art,” we’ve always said. They’re beautiful to watch. We’ve never given them names, as it’s just too hard to discern one from the next. But there was once one very special chicken who stood out from the crowd. It was easy. She was the only one left of her crowd; they’d all been eaten somehow. read chicken's full story here.