Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Tao of Chickens

Hapless hipsters that we are, apparently we're aboard yet another weird little micro trend: urban chickens. Last April, AM & I lined up in front of the local Olsen's Grain an hour before they opened, as we'd heard rumors of a new shipment of day-old chicks; the previous month we'd sauntered in at 10:00 a.m. expecting to come home with a clutch of baby cluckers and were out of luck. The slightly shell-shocked salespeople told stories of a line 50 people long when the doors opened and the paid departure of the last little fuzzball just 20 minutes after the doors opened. A month later, there we were, feeling a bit like over-eager fans at a Grateful Dead show, swapping stories with our fellow line-sitters and hoping we might score some of the precious tix, er... chicks. We walked out with a two ISA Browns and two Silver-Tipped Wyandottes, not entirely sure what any of those words actually meant.

A day old when we got them, they were just as fuzzy and goofy as anyone could have hoped, and pooped and cheeped pretty much nonstop. They spent the first month or so in a high-topped cardboard box with a 100 watt bulb
for warmth. Once they'd lost the fuzz & fledged, they moved out to the backyard chicken run (formerly chainlink dog run) and an A-Frame coop lovingly constructed for about $10 out of scrap lumber and cast-off roofing from the Habitat for Humanity ReStore. After a suitably awkward adolescence with half fuzz and half feathers, they started to look positively matronly and -- about a month and a half back -- gave us our first egg. The Browns -- which turn out to be a cross between Rhode Island Reds & Rhode Island Whites -- were a good month earlier with the egg production than the Wyandottes, but as of this week, we're seeing a consistent three eggs a day, and four a day more often than not.

And the fresh eggs are yummy.

One other benefit of chickens in the backyard that I'd heard about but had to experience to believe is that they're really, really entertaining and relaxing to watch. Put a bowl
of a favorite treat in front of them -- popcorn, over-ripe cantaloupes, cottage cheese -- and whichever grabs the first bite gets chased by the other three, who immediately ignore the full bowl to chase the sister with a mouthful. Let them out to scratch around the yard, and they rush back and forth to their favorite spots, run/flapping to keep up with each other.

But it's most surprising just how relaxing it is to just watch them be chickens. Our neighbor, who daily brings them greens and melon rinds that they devour, has become a big fan. We were standing out by the coop one afternoon talking about the chickens and general events around the neighborhood, when we simultaneously realized we'd both been silent for a
good five minutes. Just standing there, watching the chickens scratch and peck. Just being, in the spirit of a good zen master. Think about it -- Chicken egg? Cross the road? All of our best western zen koans seem to come from chickens. For a few bucks worth of feed, it seems we're getting more out of this than just eggs.

1 comment:

  1. Well I can't let a new post go by without commenting. I totally love this one - your posts are not frequent but they are absolutely worth the way, funny and thoughful all at once. I can't wait to meet the chickens in person.