One of the agreements I made with my husband when we moved from the city to the country many years ago, is that I would get chickens. I didn’t care about ponies or puppies. I wanted chickens. An odd demand from a city slicker, one might say, but there it is. Some dream of riding off into the sunset, some dream of little brown eggs.
Turns out it wasn’t difficult at all to get chickens. You just call in your order over the phone. A month after we moved in, 40 chicks arrived in the mail, causing quite a stir at the city post office where they peeked at customers from a box on the front desk. It is amazing what comes through the mail these days.
The arrival of the chicks coincided with our youngest set of twins’ third birthday, and they and the rest of their siblings decided that the fuzzy little guys were just the most amazing birthday present ever. The chicks were held, petted, kissed, decorated, wrapped, fed and fondled. Not one of the little critters died from the attention, which just goes to show you how tough chickens are.
“Hide The Chick” became the game of choice. One child would sneak a chick out of the box we had set up in the laundry room, and hide it. The rest would then go look for it, aided considerably by the bird which would cheep-cheep in panic from under the couch, or from inside a cupboard. Sometimes the kids would hide nine or ten at once and have a round up. Sometimes they would not all get rounded up, and dad would find one snoozing in his shoe as he bolted out the door for work in the morning, causing panic for both the bird and the man at the other end of the shoe.
Chicks, we discovered, are cute for a week or two, then they start getting big – which is what we had hoped for – and smelly, which was what we had failed to consider. In a month the flies moved in, and very shortly afterward, the chicks moved out to an old coop in the yard that had, by the look of it, been there a long while.
Even though the chickens finally vacated, the children never quite shook the idea that these birds were their pets. They still visited the coop regularly, checking on the flock’s progress.
On a sunny afternoon a month or so later, I was in our kitchen with a friend, when three year old Otis came rolling in, elbows chugging like a little Popeye, and singing
“Yo ho–ho, yo–ho-ho, sixteen chickens on a tram – po – yeeeeen. Yo-ho-ho”.
Both my friend and I started to laugh, then at the same time stopped and stared at one another for one awful moment. We bolted out the back door, in the direction of the trampoline. There on the canvass, were about a half dozen chickens, clucking crazily, and beside them Otis’ twin brother Sam, merrily bouncing them through the air.
As Sam came down, the birds went up, cackling wildly. When Sam went up, the birds bounced down, feathers flying. How long this had been going on was uncertain, but if it didn’t end soon, there would be a bunch of bald chickens in the hen house. True, they flapped gamely, but they were making little progress toward the edge of the trampoline.
Once we got Sam off the canvas, we tried to catch the chickens. They staggered around out of our reach for quite awhile, apparently too dizzy to use their wings.
It took some time to round up the other three dozen panicked poultry that the kids had set free, particularly when the older children got wind of what was going on and joined in the chase. There were chickens and kids everywhere.
When the last bird was stuffed back into the hen house, and the last feather floated to the ground, the two little culprits flopped happily onto the trampoline upon which, most unfortunately, the chickens’ calling cards had been dropped.
Chicken droppings are a nasty thing to get out of one’s hair, but are – according to their older sister and brothers – quite the most hilarious thing to have to happen to a person.
No doubt the chickens agree.