Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Man's Best Feathered Friends

It’s time we talk about chickens.


The first six months of this year have been a time of rich personal growth. I have learned much about relationships, emotion, and hygiene. I have come to better appreciate the simple things in life, like fresh eggs.

And I owe it all to my contraband chickens.

Let me first state to any Monmouth city law enforcement officer who may be reading, by way of disclaimer, that any and all references to chickens in my back yard are purely fictional! And I don’t have any reason to even care what the city ordinance says on the topic! Because . . . why would I? Although I did find out, after my nine lovely ladies were all settled in their coop, that the guy who puts up the city ordinances on the city website was like ten years behind and that chickens have been banned for years and that gun-blazing police are rampaging from neighborhood to neighborhood evicting helpless hens to a future certain to include poultry seasoning!

(Add lemon peel and chipotle sauce and bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes).

We have nine birds which we got as chicks, named Cacciatori, Tetrazini, Marsala, Drumstick, Teriyaki, Buffalo Wings, Nibblers, Pot Pie, and Shake’N’Bake.

My ride-share buddy, Tom, has been bragging about his chickens for years. We ate some of his over-priced, farm-fresh eggs and loved them. Then we decided, as a family, that we should raise chickens ourselves.

That particular family meeting came several weeks after we had the chicks living in our garage. I was teasing Wendy that the chickens could be her Mother’s Day present. The rest of the conversation went something like this:

Wendy: not my present – you’re the one who wanted the chickens, not me.
John: Very funny! We only have chickens because you and the kids wanted them.
Wendy: Na-ahh!
(dramatic pause)
John and Wendy: You mean . . . you didn’t . . . OH NOOOOOO!

So here we were, the accidental chicken farmers. In retrospect, I am sure it was me that had the subconscious need for chickens. At the time it was probably just a craving for another unfinished project, because I was running low.

It started out to be purely a business arrangement, with no emotional connection or lifetime commitment. Their occupation is to produce eggs and garden manure. I am their employer and landlord. They work for chicken feed.

But as I fed them, shoveled their poop, built a luxurious home for them and protected them from ferocious predators (Pumpkin and Charlie), I came to understand that there is much more that chickens can do for me.

They are my emotional counterparts.

You see, chickens seem to have a dual nature: one part stupid bird, and the other part human male. It’s hard to explain but when I stare into a chicken’s eyes, I feel understood.

Chickens themselves have only three discernable emotions:

First: What’s that thing? Can I eat it?
Second: Run away! Yes, I know I’m climbing on your head – it’s as far as I can run!
Third: Ouch! Wow! Ouch! Today’s egg is on it’s waaay!

This is simplicity any man can appreciate.

With the first two points alone, they could be my soul mates! And I could also mention that they sympathize with men who cry . . . or . . . so I hear. Chickens are not criers, (see the list of three emotions above) but if you happen to be an emotional man, and you catch yourself choking up in front of a chicken, it’s OK. She will listen. She will understand. Let the tears flow. She will still respect you. . . . I’m told.

And the third point? It seems too much to ask that something so small and helpless would make my breakfast every day, but they do it, and they do it gladly.

So you see, my Fictional! chickens have found a solid home in my heart. They are useful, economical, helpful and loyal.

After two or three years, they’ll stop laying and become senior citizen hens. When that happens, as their names suggest, these loving, listening friends will be plucked, skinned, quartered, and tossed into the freezer, to be enjoyed as a family entree.

As I said: Lifetime Commitment.