Angelia McLean: Country Mouse City Mouse 10-17-11
We live next door to a very exuberant albeit diminutive chicken farmer. Her name is Emily and she’s 6. This last spring her mom bought five chicks of various breeds from the local co-op (as did we and many who hopped on the chicken bandwagon) and proceeded to introduce Emily to the care and maintenance of baby chicks. We have found that the more handling these little pullets get, the better off you’ll be when it comes time to round them up or stick your hand in their coop.
Some breeds seem to be naturally skittish and they’d run away from you no matter how much you sang them lullabies as babies. But Emily’s chickens have definitely been handled but my aforementioned theory doesn’t seem to apply. Picture for yourself the old 1950s cartoon Pepe Le Pew where he forces his attentions on his unrequited amour. You now get the picture of just how well-loved her chickens are: She cuddled, coddled, doted, dangled, indulged and over indulged, catered to, and in her enthusiastic 6-year-old way, attempted what looked to be deep tissue massage. There has never been a more devoted chicken farmer.
Alas, three of these original juvenile pullets didn’t make it but not because of Emily. One seemed to have disappeared, never to be heard from again. (I think she packed her bags and skedaddled when her little keeper was distracted) and the other two had a tragic ending with a raccoon. A couple of more mature pullets were attained and they now had to endure the Emily-effect. I bet they felt like a couple of new inmates arriving at the prison, holding their bedding and their toothbrush as the rest of the prison members bang on the cell bars.
This summer they were privileged to get Emily 24/7, complete with language instruction and flight lessons. Yes, Emily believed that she was the one to teach them how to fly. By picking them up and throwing them in some direction, they learned the use of their wings quite quickly. They now do quite a good running take off and have the agility to leap between yards. Unfortunately, they use this flying knowledge to dodge Emily. Her chickens are quite the garrulous bunch. With all the yelling and scolding they get from their mini mistress, they themselves do quite a good job of squawking and prattling early in the morning, getting particularly verbose when an egg is about to arrive. Ever wonder what they’re saying when the egg is about to arrive? Why are they so surprised since this is their raison d’etre! “Oh my gosh, here is an egg!” “What, an egg?” “I think I’m going to have an egg!” “Did you hear, she’s going to have an egg!” “Oh dear, an egg?” “Egg?” “Did someone say egg?” My teenage daughter finds that not being able to sleep past 9 a.m., because of poultry prattle outside her bedroom window a bane to her existence. Need I remind her we own a rooster?
These ladies have some cool names only a 6-year old can dream up: Big Girl, Sun, Love Cuv, and Stripe Stripe. Big Girl has flown the coop, so to speak, as I have to send her back over the fence regularly five to six times a day, reminding her that prison breaks are a punishable offence. And sometimes Emily encourages them to fly over here so she can execute her 6-year-old independence of walking to the neighbor’s to retrieve her chicken all by herself. It is a regular routine I hear from my corner office window; yelling at said chicken, flap of chicken wings, scolding disappointment at said chicken, silence, gate door clangs, yelling ensues at said chicken, flapping of chicken wings, scold, gate closes, silence. I think the chicken finds itself back over here before Emily arrives back over there. There is a struggle between these two species; Homo sapien 6-years-old and Gallus domesticus-they are both trying to outsmart the other.
Emily has started Kindergarten and like a dedicated farmer, is up early to let the chickens out before she leaves-with a lot of high-pitched conversation with them as she does so. She recently went on a short family vacation. (Her chickens thought they were on one too). I knew she was immediately back as I heard the squealing delight of her greeting the chickens and the start of the yelling at them all over again. Despite my concerns that all this ‘attention’ would frighten them from laying, there seems to be no egg deprivation as the girls have been quite fecund.
Emily and her chickens make for some great story telling fodder but knowing the authentic devotion she shows along with her enthusiasm and love for her chickens, there isn’t another special 6-year-old chicken farmer quite like her. And she’s a city gal!