If you ever see a chicken riding a bus, she used to live here.

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.

Poor Squirt.

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.

 

 

 

 

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Goldfish are fun, but you don’t want to pet them.

While I was growing up, my folks didn’t allow typical pets at their house. I might be slightly emotionally scarred from the lack of animal exposure that my life needed back in the fourth grade.

The main reason my parents put the kibosh on pets was that my brother, Uncle Fun, had severe allergies. We weren’t left with many options when it came to finding an animal that he could be around without an injection of epinephrine. Around animals, his asthma would kick in to high gear and send him huffing into a ventilator for several hours, so as a general rule, pets were out. Uncle Fun couldn’t breathe around dust, grass, pollen, mushrooms, Pakistani leather, girls, lawnmowers, oriental carpets or anything that walked. I don’t know much, but I do know this;

All the good pets can walk.

After begging and pleading to share my room with any form of domesticated creature, my mom reluctantly agreed to let me have a goldfish. The excitement was tangible. I scraped up my dollars and coins and mom loaded me into our old, square, 1984 Honda Civic and off we went down to the local pet store.

A glass bowl was purchased along with some blue gravel, a green fish net and some food that looked like flakes of dried scabs. I chose a fat, silver goldfish, gave him (her?) a name and off we went toward home. My very first pet! How I loved that useless silver fish. For about three days I watched that goldfish swim around its glass bowl. I “oohed” and “ahhed” every time it did anything that indicated a modicum of intelligence. “See how smart Sparkles is?” I asked Uncle Fun, “Sparkles knows how to eat fish-food scabs! Isn’t that smart? And watch how he sucks up that blue rock and spits it out because he realizes it’s not  food. Isn’t that brilliant?” Uncle Fun stood in my room, nodded with a look of feigned amusement and puffed his inhaler.

For five months I cared for that anchovy until one morning I woke up to him doing the backstroke atop the bowl. My spirit was crushed and I padded off to school after going through a ceremonial flushing to send Sparkles off to the Great Fish Tank in the sky. My fishbowl was empty and so was my heart. The rain fell, the birds stopped chirping and oven baked fish-sticks lost their appeal.

I learned a very important lesson as a kid. Goldish are fun, but you don’t want to pet them. Being the caregiver of a mini aquarium just wasn’t in the cards for me, and after blowing through several replacement fish, I gave them up all together.

Petless I remained, until one year on a partly cloudy afternoon, I found a small brown lizard at the park with my friends. Refusing to part with it, I hid it in a shoebox and snuck it into the back of my parent’s car. There’s nothing more thrilling to a kid than a secret lizard pet. I hid him in his box deep in the bowels of my parent’s crowded basement. Everything went well until the very next morning when I discovered him missing. The little brown lizard was nowhere to be found. Despite my accusations, neither my mom or dad would fess up to finding it and releasing it into the wild.

Which means that a 23 year old lizard is still living rent-free inside my parent’s hoarded basement. I would bet money on a 400 pound Gila monster chillaxin’ inside their air-ducts, eating pizza and watching old VHS tapes loaded with M*A*S*H episodes. Without a doubt, that reptile is guarding piles of broken junk and picking his yellow lizard teeth with the bones of dead rodents.

By now, I would have made Uncle Fun go down to our folk’s basement to flush-out the elusive monster…

But he can’t.

Because he’s also highly allergic to piles of useless crap.

All this to say that when my little kids asked me recently for pet fish and lizards, my answer was a strong NO. My track record isn’t great and I don’t need anything else around here that poops. I won’t be buying fish unless they come battered and golden. And the idea of a free-loading lizard loose in my home makes me want to punch a gopher and breathe into a bag.

The kids have assured me that they’d never put a leash on a goldfish or let a giant lizard live rent free in the garage, and I’d like to believe them.

But if they don’t stop whining for pets, I’m sending them down to play “Monster Quest” in grandpa’s basement.