Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Excerpts from "The Chicken Chronicles" in the newspaper

THE CHICKEN CHRONICLES
(a journal about my backyard chickens)

The rooster is getting a comb. I watched him groom himself today. It is a strange thing to see a chicken lie down, not at all like a dog. They look like they’re slowly dying, and they often lounge on their sides as if they are centerfolds.


May 23, 2001

I went outside to sit with the chickens. I put my lawn chair in their yard and let them out. They pecked around, and I watched them, and it was great entertainment. Today the rain left everything dewy, and the chickens were around me, the squirrels were on the fence about 10 ft. away, a cardinal watched us for a while, and a rabbit hopped up to us. I felt like I was in that old margarine commercial as that lady playing “Mother Nature.”

I have put the finishing touches on, painting it barn red, adding an American flag in the yard, a mailbox and doorbell. Yes, they have received not one but two pieces of mail, one from the May family and one from the kid next door, who I think really believes the chickens can read. I painted flowers on the outside of the door. When you pull down the door, there is a rung for the chickens to get their grip so that they do not slide down and get discombobulated anymore. I purchased a small sign and nailed it below the rung: “Watch your step!” Chickens are very observant, so every time they come out, they stand on that door and look at that sign as if they are reading it and reminding each other.


Painting the barn was sort of an ordeal. First I painted the red parts, then the white parts, then the grass, some leaves, some bricks, my clothes, and Dandy, by accident. At one point, I fell over the straw bale backwards and spilled red all over. Then when I was standing holding the white paint, the limbs of the trees got into my tray. But I just kept at it, no matter what obstacles befell me. I was painting over straw that was on the wood, grass that was growing next to the wall, chicken wire, chicken poop, whatever was in my path got painted. At one point, Dandy got scared of something (probably his own reflection in the water bowl) and ran through the pan, thus painting himself and the grass where he kept on running. He still has red paint on one side of him and white paint on the front of his legs.

As I gathered my painting tools, I stood back to admire my work and looked around me. I turned to see a crew of roofing men across the street watching me. They waved. I bet my face was as red as the coop.

When we installed the roost, it was comical to see the chickens attempt to stay on. Evidently, the instinct is there, but the ability has to be developed. They looked like log rollers until we found a way to stabilize the roost

I was sitting in my chair, and the hen went under me and repeatedly pecked my rumpus, at least the parts that were pooching through the plastic slats. How embarrassing. Was it that noticeable that she had to peck at me like I was a melon slice or something? When I got up, I laid the phone on my chair and walked away, and they both jumped up there and walked all over it, even the phone. Yes, George, the very phone you put by your mouth.

P.S. I think I figured out why my chickens’ droppings are gargantuan—I caught them eating throwaway Styrofoam left over from the construction. This would definitely add bulk.

Speaking of farm folk (like myself), Katie and I clipped their wings so that they will stop flying so much. I held them out, and she cut them. She is now a farm girl, too. Anyway, it seems to have worked. When they take off, they bank to the left or right because we didn’t cut them even. Oh well.


Clipping their wings did not affect their running speed, however. There is nothing faster than a scared chicken. They look just like the RoadRunner. Jordan usually helps me corral them, but I have to use the big black rake to catch them because I can’t get close enough. It’s a little like catching a butterfly with a net, only magnified 50 times. Every time we go through this, I can swear I hear Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs’ banjo music going while we chase them! This routine happens frequently. As you might guess, the chickens are now deathly afraid of the rake. If they just see me with it in the yard, they go bonkers.

They are also deathly afraid of anything flying overhead, which is understandable. But the rooster is extra skittish because it’s his job to protect everyone. But my rooster is like Barney Fife, trying to run and find his one bullet at the same time. His eyes are even big and wild like Barney’s.


I went outside today to sit a spell with the chickens. I lay back in the lounge chair and closed my eyes. I could feel them pulling on my clothes and hear them snapping the grass. It was nice to lie there, looking up through the leaves of the tree into the beautiful sky. The breeze was barely perceptible. The temp. was perfect. I dozed off.

The next thing I knew, I was startled by a great slashing pain on my thighs. Dandy Randy had jumped up on me and was walking up my body to visit my face. He stopped on my chest and was peering down at me. He would look and then cock his head and look some more, keenly observing me as if he were an alien who had landed on me. I tried not to make a giant noise or movement because I’m always trying to show them they don’t need to fear me (except when I’m wielding a rake). So I held it in, but then I thought, “Oh no! He’s going to go for the eyes!” They peck everything out of curiosity, you know. At that moment, Daisy joined him and tore up my remaining flesh. Just then Kristin walked out of the house toward me, stopped dead in her tracks and yelled, “Mom! What are you doing????” Of course, this spooked the daylights out of the chickens who puffed up their feathers and banked a left turn, tumbled on the ground and then ran like the sky was falling and hid in their coop. Can’t wait ‘til we get that privacy fence up.




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