Life was lacking chaos, noise, excitement and poop, so we did what any normal, self-respecting American family of 9 would do; we went out and bought 14 chickens. They started as small, fluffy chicks in the garage and over the last year we have grown them into quite a brood of feisty, squawking hens. They reside in our backyard and sleep in a coop that was more skillfully designed than my first car.
The kids dearly love the chickens and consider them to be “pets.” I do not consider them to be pets, because in my mind, pets are creatures that are kept around for the sheer enjoyment of cleaning up feces off the lawn and vacuuming fur off the carpet. These chickens are only around because they do two things very well: they create an abundance of food by laying fresh eggs each day, and they bother neighborhood dogs we don’t like. It’s a win-win.
Not only has this small flock provided food for us, they have also served to provide a more than adequate amount of entertainment. This has saved us at least five whole dollars at the local REDBOX. In lieu of renting what could be a riveting movie with an exceptional plot, we stand and stare out the kitchen window and vote on which chicken will be the first hen to go sailing down the slide after being carried up the play structure by a preschooler.
Particularly amusing, is the way our seven-year-old daughter has adopted a certain chicken named “Squirt.” Squirt is her friend. Squirt, she says, loves her. But Squirt, I believe, would quickly pack a suitcase and hop on the nearest Greyhound to Cincinnati if given the chance.
“What are you doing with that chicken?” I have hollered out my kitchen window more than once at my dear, petite daughter.
“Squirt wants a ride in the wagon,” she yells. Of course she does. What feathered fowl wouldn’t want to be hauled at light-speed around the yard in a red plastic apparatus on wheels.
Day after day, I’ve watched this gold-headed Ameraucana endure humiliating circumstances while other hens look on, snickering and pointing.
My daughter heads toward her and she doesn’t even run away anymore; she just stands there in disgust, giving the stink-eye and glaring with a loathsome expression that clearly says “What’s the use.”
One day I looked out the window in time to see the hen and her “keeper” walking around the yard together. Unsurprisingly, Squirt wore a makeshift leash around her midsection and my daughter was happily walking her across the yard like one would walk a small puppy. The other hens gossiped, sneered and drank tea while poor Squirt performed like a trained monkey in what could be known as the worst chicken circus ever.
Like people, chickens have individual personalities. Some are quiet and gentle, others are loud and some are downright mean. We have one obnoxious hen who’s always screeching loudly about one injustice or another. She likely honed her protesting skills after watching CNN reports of various Occupiers and has taken to painting picket signs that read “I am the 99%” in really poor handwriting (or chicken scratches- if you will). At this point, I am 99% sure that she will be the first one to end up as soup, should the need arise.
Several times a day I say to one of my teens, “Go tell that chicken to SHUT UP.” So far, she’s refused to give up her crusade against the misdeed of being forced to use one of the empty nesting boxes and is still demonstrating daily against the unfairness of someone else sitting on her egg, or using her spot on the perch. As a result, we’ve investigated several DIY chicken nugget videos that look absolutely golden and delicious.
No matter how irritated I’ve gotten, the children are delighted with the chickens, purely because of the unpredictability they bring.
One day, after leaving the sliding glass door open, one of the walking poultry bags sauntered right into the house. The kids screamed with delight and accidentally chased the Brown Leghorn into the kitchen where she flew wildly around looking for an exit. Her dirty feathers and muddy feet thrashed about in my previously sterilized kitchen while she searched for a safe place to land.
The children, (totally thrilled with a live chicken flapping and cawing in the house), ran in circles after her until she flew up on the counter and found what she thought was the safest place to be.
It just so happens that she decided to land on top of a large, open waffle iron.
Not being from the south, I’m not accustomed to eating chicken and waffles together, much to the relief of Mrs. Fluffington, (I’m sure), who is now back safely with her bridge club, telling tales and spinning yarns inside their luxury coop.
Truth be told, we don’t have plans to eat any of the chickens, especially the beloved carnival performer, Squirt. But if any of them decide to land on top of the BBQ grill, all bets are off.
Especially if that chicken is holding a protest sign.