Tag Archives: chickens

Surrounded by Chickens…Sort Of

What is up with all the chickens?  My most personal, up-close encounter is with the neighborhood rooster who made his appearance several months ago.  From what I can tell, he lives maybe two or three blocks away.  And you know that thing about roosters crowing at dawn?  Well, they do that, and they also crow any other time they damn well please.  Lately, he has really stepped up his game.  As Fakesister suggests, it’s spring, when a young man’s fancy turns to…you know.  The only time he doesn’t crow is in the dead of night, or when it rains.  I spend a lot of time praying for rain (or dark).  I’ve never actually seen him in person, but let’s assume he looks something like this:

Roosters are very pretty birds.  I’m not a violent person, but if he lived any closer I swear he would already be dinner.

Recently, blog friend Nancy DeMarco has been keeping us updated on the progress of Frankenchick.  Frankie, as she’s now affectionately known, was pecked mercilessly by an adult hen shortly after birth, resulting in a serious head wound and an eye that swelled shut.  Then from sitting under her Mom, some of Mom’s feathers became embedded in Frankie’s head, making her look seriously weird.  Thus,  Frankenchick.  You can read all about it here:  http://nancydemarco.wordpress.com/  Nancy tells it better than I could.  But I have to add that one of the most recent developments is that Frankie has become addicted to Monterrey Jack cheese.

Two people in my office, Colleen and Kitty, decided to get chickens this year.  Kitty is an experienced chicken owner, but this would be Colleen’s first time.  Colleen is a bit on the OCD side, which is a bit of an understatement.  For instance, at work, every problem can be solved by creating a spreadsheet (except for those that can’t).  But if there’s a way, Colleen will find it.  We constantly tease her, in the very nicest way of course.  If someone brings up an issue, we say, “I know!  Let’s get Colleen to make a spreadsheet!”

The point here is that she spent weeks researching the best kinds of chickens to get, what to feed them, and how to make a cheap chicken coop.  For the latter, you can buy plans for about $5 and build a DIY A-frame coop.  For more than you probably ever wanted to know about chicken coops, here’s an example:  http://www.chickenhousesplus.com/chcopl.html  I don’t know how I ever lived without knowing there’s a website called chickenhousesplus.com.

At last she felt she was ready, and Kitty told her if she would wait a couple of weeks, her mother-in-law would give her chicks for free, which is where Kitty was getting hers.  So what does Colleen do?  She goes that very weekend and buys chicks.  Another, somewhat paradoxical, OCD symptom.  Weeks and weeks of meticulous research followed by an impulsive moment where caution is thrown to the winds.

She had only one small problem, which is that the coop wasn’t built yet.  Colleen’s strategy was that if she got them, it would spur her boyfriend to go ahead and build the coop.  She could probably do it herself, but her boyfriend is a carpenter and his work would likely be sturdier than hers.  Unfortunately, like many passive-aggressive plans, that didn’t work any better than nagging.  The coop still isn’t built. (I think his excuse is something like “Honey, I have a headache”.  Plus there’s that busman’s holiday thing.  The last thing he wants to do after a full day of working construction is come home and build something.)  So the chickens are living in the house.

I can’t say I know much of anything about chickens, so I was surprised at how big they’ve grown in about 3 weeks.  She showed me a picture last week on her iPhone of a now teen-aged chicken roosting on top of a window.  And while I may not know much, I do know this:  you can’t housebreak a chicken.

So if all that weren’t enough, Saturday one of my friends posted a picture on Facebook from her back yard of–you guessed it–an A-frame chicken coop!  Her young son’s grandfather built it for him.  So you can see why I’m feeling surrounded by chickens.  I’m happy to report that I have NOT been inspired to buy any of my own.

Rita’s chicken coop



Animal Hoarding

Like “Fatal Attractions”, “Animal Hoarding” is one of those programs on Animal Planet you watch so that you can say, “At least I’m not that bad”.  It’s a bit like slowing down at the scene of a traffic accident to see if you can see any dead bodies on the road.  You don’t want to, you know you shouldn’t, but you can’t help yourself. 

Disclaimer:  At the height of my animal ownership I had four dogs and two cats.  I began to sense that I had a certain kinship with these people, and I had to apply the brakes.  I’m now down to two dogs and one cat.  Due to attrition so to speak.  I am not in the same league with these people, however. 

One of the things animal hoarders seem to have in common is the inability to tell you how many animals they have.  That’s the first thing that separates me.  I can’t imagine not knowing where all your animals are and what they’re doing at any one given moment.  Another thing they have in common is the gradual recognition (way too late) that they have crossed a line somewhere.  That instead of “saving” the animals, they have become the very sort of people they hate.  But they don’t know how to get out of it, and how to stop. 

Each episode of Animal Hoarding tells two stories.  One last night was about a guy “Peter” who kept chickens in his house.  Roosters, mostly.  The scene at his house was like bedlam.  The crowing alone was deafening.  And although it wasn’t shown, I suspect there were lots of fights.  (Me:  Chickens?  In the house?  At least I’m not that bad.)  He did not want to give any of them up, for fear they would be killed.  Especially the roosters.  It turns out there are rescue groups, even for chickens.  The one in this episode was called “Backyard Chickens”.  Who knew? 

The other story was about a woman named “Kitten”, which just seems like a cruel joke, because her problem was cat hoarding.  Like “Peter”, she couldn’t tell you how many cats she had.  When asked, both of them said things like “Around 60–maybe 70”.  Well Kitten had a lot fewer cats than she thought she had, because some of them were dead and she didn’t even know it. 

They eventually brought in a team to take away her cats.  The team came in wearing coveralls and respirator masks and carrying shovels.  They literally shoveled out her house, and in the process they moved out all the furniture.  Under one piece of furniture, which looked like a chest of drawers or something similar, they found a live possum.  I guess cat food must be tasty to possums.  Who knew? 

It may seem that I’m making light of this, but I’m not.  Animal Planet shows a disclaimer before and during every episode which says that animal hoarding is being considered as a psychological diagnosis all its own.  Perhaps they mean for inclusion in the DSM. 

At this point, I would have to disagree.  I think animal hoarding is merely a symptom.  A response,a behavioral response, to some underlying problem we already have a name for.  Like depression. 

In Kitten’s case, they made her live cat-free for a certain period of time.  This gave her time to think, and to re-establish relationships with her family.  The carrot was that if she did well, she would get one (ONE) of her cats back.  Her favorite one.  At the end of the program, it shows the cat coming back home, and I was in tears.  Happy for her, and at the same time hoping she’d come far enough not to restart the bad path she had taken.

Vegetarians Unite…or Not

Disclaimer:  I am not a vegetarian.  I’m not even close.  But I have been making a special effort for the last couple of years not to eat chicken.  I haven’t been successful, but I can at least say that I’ve dropped my chicken consumption by about 80%.  I would LIKE to be a vegetarian, but I have the same problem with it that I have with quitting smoking:  No discipline.  Oh yeah, there’s that addiction thing, too. 

If you don’t believe me, try giving up chicken.  If you pay attention, a huge majority of fast-food places serve chicken exclusively.  “Hamburger” fast-food places always serve chicken too.  Check out the freezer section for ready-made dinners–mostly chicken.  Higher-end restaurants always have chicken as an option.  Those in between (see:Applebee’s) feature wings and “boneless” wings.  Ditto even pizza places.  You can’t escape chicken, and it’s been touted as a healthy alternative to red meat, which in our world primarily means beef. 

It would be good to start giving up meat by giving up baby animals like lamb and veal and piglets, followed by giving up adult animals that are kept in atrocious conditions.  Which pretty much includes all adult animals grown for food unless they’re raised on small farms. 

So when I decided to focus on reducing meat intake, I decided to focus on chickens, and my reason was that chickens are more abused than any other food animal.  That isn’t necessarily true.   The giant pens that hold beef cattle can be seen from space.  But I think it’s something about chickens.  They’re birds, and I have a soft spot in my heart for birds.  Baby chicks.  Is there anything cuter?  And hens are good mothers.  They coo at their chicks and herd them around to protect them from danger.  And maybe my choice is influenced by my knowlege of a chicken house in Mississippi during my young college days, where the farmer went bankrupt and thousands of chickens suffocated in their quarters because they turned off his electricity.

Today’s New York Times Magazine has an article about Wayne Pacelle, President of the Humane Society of the United States.  He’s a Vegan.  If I’m ever successful at not eating chickens, and then proceeding to other animals, I’ll never be a Vegan.  Vegans hold that even eating the products of animals is exploitation of them.  So…no eggs.  No milk.  No cheese.  No honey.  What?  The exploitation of bees?  Like bees haven’t been making honey since they evolved from, oh, pterodactyls?  I can’t get my brain to reject the idea of “mining” animals for their products.  Nor do I think it’s bad to eat them once their mining days are over. 

But Pacelle is a smart guy.  He has turned the Humane Society into an organization which calls for the humane treatment of food animals in addition to companion animals.  After all, one culture’s pet is another’s food source.  I think Pacelle is the kind of person who will transform our view of how we treat animals.  For the full article, along with a great picture of Pacelle surrounded by chickens, go here: