This past weekend I added to my flock. No, I am not a preacher, heaven forbid. In every way. The flock to which I refer is an avian one. Poultry to be exact. And no- we do not eat them. My chickens are for egg production and Zen instruction only. I spend hours sitting and watching them go about the business of life, trying to learn the secret of their equanimity while eating hard boiled eggs.
There is no rooster. What? No rooster, you cry? Then how do you get eggs? Ha, silly people. One does not need a rooster for eggs, merely for baby chicks. Now, being prescient, and knowing how your perverted little minds work, I predict your next question is about how chickens have sex. My answer to you is: I have no fucking idea. Literally. No rooster. No chicken porn. Google it.
What I do have is a decent sized henhouse, a predator proof chicken run (wire fencing above and below), and a yard in which the girls are allowed free reign during daylight hours. At night they dutifully put themselves to bed and huddle close upon their roost dreaming of a world filled with tasty bugs. I close the predator gate, as during medieval times- up the drawbridge at night to repeal the invading hoards, which in this case are raccoons, possums, and fox. Sleep tight ladies. In the morning those magical eggs appear and life is good.
The girls have names, absurd ones, but they own them. The big white one? That’s Archimedes.
I don’t know many chickens could make a name like Archimedes work, but she does it. She is truly the ruler of the roost. It must be her ability to turn ordinary metals into gold. And Gigi? She’s the one with the feathery Manolo Blahnik feet. Things One and Two are exact replicas of the Seuss characters unloosed by the Cat In The Hat. Our flock is completed by Einstein, our resident dumb blonde, and Helen. Her name may be ordinary, but she is nothing of the kind, sporting a multi-hued headdress and the loudest squawk in the coop. Life was good in the Ritz Carleton of Coops…
Stop! Hold the cyber presses! I must digress right now! A mere two minutes ago my personal newsgirl/best friend Jane Hanson brought to my attention that Neiman Marcus has just listed a henhouse for $100,000.00 in their Christmas catalog! This is news indeed, first because it’s stupid, but even more distressingly, it reduces my henhouse to the mere Motel 6 of coops. My girls will be hopping with indignation. Or perhaps not. A safe environment complete with worms, corn cobs and a life span of more than six months- they are already living the high life. I should also bear in mind that they are my Zen masters. They live completely in the moment and want for nothing more than an overly ripe banana from the compost heap and a disoriented June bug for dessert. My girls spit upon the preening pretensions of Neiman Marcus and thumb their beaks at chandelier lit brooding boxes.
Back to our story. Life was good. But then…
Disaster struck in the form of a hawk attack. Two of my girls were killed and my flock reduced to four. It happened in daylight and in the blink of an eye. We now remove our hats for a moment of silence for poor Einstein. She never saw it coming. Her gorgeous hairdo obscured her eyes and perhaps led to her undoing. We lost our whimsical Thing One. And what’s Thing Two without Thing One? We do not like it Sam I Am.
We soldiered on, the four survivors and I. Sad but not inconsolable, until summer when the lack of eggs started affecting my social life. I had been a sought after guest amongst our crowd. Little did I know it was my hostess gift of a dozen eggs fresh from the chicken’s butt and not me that was so desired at dinner parties. I found myself wrestling my football playing son for the last egg in the box each morning when egg production dropped to three a day.
I looked into obtaining more hens but laying hens are not easy to come by. For those of you who have never channeled your inner Old MacDonald, the process of the chicken and the egg goes something like this: You order newly hatched chicks from a hatchery and they arrive via post office. Yes Virginia, babies come from the post office. Not all of them survive being shipped, but chicks are cheap and that’s how it’s done. I went online and chose a variety of “heirloom” chickens. I am an artist and if I was going to raise chickens, regular old chickens were not going to cut it. I was interested in diversity. I chose a variety of exotic birds and pressed “purchase”. I was duly informed that I must chose another 18 chicks if I wanted my order to be processed. Two dozen was the minimum order. The other difficulty lay in the fact that new chicks require months in an incubator. This was not going to happen. I am part time farmer, part time city dweller, and the idea of bringing them to an apartment during the week and having 24 cheeping hopping chicks in my apartment- just wasn’t going happen. Long story short, I had a chicken surrogate, someone who raised them until they were out of the incubation stage.
Increasing my flock was not going to be easy. Then last weekend at the local farmers market I happened upon a guy who wanted to reduce his flock. He had ordered a couple of dozen Araucana chicks- desiring those blue green eggs made famous by Martha Stewart pre-ankle bracelet. He was willing to sell me a couple.
So now, I am the proud chicken mama of three more ladies by the names of: Jane, Sacagawea, (don’t ask) and Lola. Right now, my original chickarinas are busy hazing them. I’m embarrassed to say I’ve raised a flock of mean girls. But pecking order with be re-established and the cliques will break apart and hopefully the sky won’t fall.