Following the wisdom of my ancestors, I walk the words to find the truth. Words are a path, the spaces between are the destination. To find a way between the words, you must walk the path and hear the deafening roar of silence.

"Who has not listened to hear the secret
stories of the land whisper from ruins or
forests, or the pages of ancient texts?"

Ari Berk~

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Counting My Imaginary Chickens

I've been thinking a lot lately about chickens. Everywhere I look these days there seems to be an unending stream of helpful information about them. How to select a breed. How to buy online. How to raise them. How to manage their emotional needs. How to socialize them. How to calculate their reproductive cycles in a financially viable way (most articles recommend a cascade strategy that allows for chickens to be staggered by age in order to continuously produce eggs - the average egg laying span of a chicken's life being about two years.) How to build coops (or more correctly "houses") that look like Death Stars, or Antique Carousels, or Small Villas on the Amalfi Coast (I am not making this up).

"it's all about the attitude"
And then there is, of course, chicken couture. Seriously. Fashion forward apparel for the well dressed chicken... Sweaters and hats being the front runners on the proverbial henwalk.  Any modestly worded online search will reveal the glories of this little known niche market but I must admit that I was severely disappointed
when a routine google search on "clothes for chickens" turned up tons of photos on Pintrest of almost unendurably cute outfits for little girls (there's another whole blog in that I am sure).

"watch me work, ladies"
Future archeologists (a favorite game of mine) will no doubt be certain that for a brief time in our culture, the chicken outshone the
cat as the predominantly desirable pet. When Facebook begins to proliferate with chicken memes I
will feel oh-so-very-justified in my own perspicacity regarding that particular observation.

This new-to-me awareness
of a growing backyard chicken raising movement first appeared about a year ago on my radar in the usual way. Through Twitter. I am not a proficient Twitter user, just so you know. My learning curve on the popular social media tool was nosebleed inducing. So as a new user without a clue, I found myself inadvertently
flung up on the digital shores of a deeply reverent and sometimes militant sub-culture of radicalized chicken farmers living in England with absolutely no idea how I had gotten there. I do not live in England. But then that's the beauty of the internet, isn't it? Suddenly my days were filled with anticipation and sometimes trepidation about the lives of chickens I had never met. It was hell.

"the "little chicken on the praire" look"
Would Mr Twickham and Lady Buttercup find love? Would Fat Albert and Gizmo ever learn to co-exist? Why was Millie so stand-offish? These were the burning questions that haunted my days. Ok, a few days maybe. Ok, a day... tops.

"Lady, really"

This brings me to a murky facet of chicken-raising life that no one really likes to talk about... The dark underbelly of competitive chicken naming. There seem to be many schools of thought
on naming chickens. Not breed names mind you, personal names. The more pragmatic
owners tend to go with culinary based themes: "Nugget" "BBQ" "Extra Crispy, "Sweet & Sour", or even "Drumstick". There are the flower aficionados who wax poetic: "Marigold, "Violet", "Petunia" or "Daisy", and herbalists who weigh in with: "Saffron", "Sage", "Rosemary" Hyssop" and "Rue". The genteel little old lady devotees: "Ethel", "Henrietta", "Lydia", or "Florence" and the ever popular literary hens: "Emma", "Elizabeth", "Jane", "Miss Bennett", and "Mr Knightly". Superheros, TV & movie characters, rock stars, Greek gods, Middle Earth inhabitants, Country Western singers, and Shakespearean characters abound. Then of course there are the quirky, rogue, silly, baffling or just-plain-stupid names. I will refrain from citing examples for obvious reasons. My own personal candidates should I ever consider taking the poultry plunge are: "Moe", "Larry", and "Curly". Call me old fashioned.

During the course of my haphazard research into this anthropological blip on our cultural timeline I discovered a pervasive, growing, hidden-in-plain-sight trend that shook me right down to my well-worn Converse sneakers. Urban chicken keeping. Chickens actually daring to cross roads that you wouldn't even want your 35 year old son or daughter to cross. Chickens hanging about on street corners for the purpose of god knows what. Latch key chickens. Chicken therapy. Chicken yoga studios. Chicken parkour. Chicken voguing clubs. And of course in the interest of perfect symmetry, chicken knitting circles.

"stylin' the sweater swag"

And I knew right then that I could never, ever hope to compete with the folks out there who minister to "special needs" chickens. That I would never, ever own a chicken plucker, hen catcher, brooder clamp lamp, egg candler, or
a pair of clip-on chicken blinders. That I would never, ever
obsess about depressed hens, droopy roosters, or how to quantify a chicken's intelligence. Nor would I ever, EVER, discuss the merits of whether to wash or not wash a poo-covered egg that had been deposited by an obliging hen.
I mean really.

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