Chickens are the perfect pet. The first couple of hours they aren’t really all that cute. Their feathers are wet, they look sort of sparse and homely, scrawny in the same way as a human newborn (except the feathers part). Then they fluff out and manage to look adorable, following you around and eating bugs. Especially ticks; they eat ticks like nobody’s business!
Then, just when they get to that not-so-cute adolescence, it gets better. Instead of being cranky, sleepy, emotional teenagers, when puberty hits they start laying eggs! Okay, that was some really good planning! They also step up the bug eating thing.
My first experience with chickens was at Jessie’s. Jessie lived across the street from my Nana. They had about an acre of land in the Valley. As in Southern California. On this acre she had pet chickens. They roamed freely and laid their eggs all over the yard. Jessie wasn’t as good at finding eggs as I. Every few months I’d go to Nana’s for a visit. Within hours I’d be over at Jessie’s hunting for eggs. Some of those eggs were really, really old. It was a smelly lesson in the benefits of providing a nesting box.
When I was about 14, my best friend and I came up with a terrific idea (given our teenage perspective). We bought each other a baby chick for Christmas. Darlene’s father was no dummy. Soon I had 2 baby chicks. My father was pretty good about it at first. He’d go along with most of my antics when it came to pets. I had chickens, so he built me a chicken coop. It wasn’t the worlds fanciest coop. This might have been part of the problem. You see, we lived in Orange County. Not exactly chicken country. We had to drive out to the boonies to get to an Agway and buy Purina Chicken Chow. We didn’t know they’d eat bugs. Or grains. Or kitchen scraps. And the chicken chow seemed to agree with them. Those girls got bigger, and bigger…and before they even laid one egg they were gone. Dad said that the animal officer had complaints from people who didn’t think chickens belonged in a planned community. He claims that he drove them out to a farm where they would be happy roaming with cows. He said the same thing about our pet snakes, mice, lizards…pretty much anything we managed to catch wound up living a better life on this mythical farm.
Many years later I found myself living at yet another beach town, this time on the east coast. And you know what? They don’t allow chickens there either. What is it with these people? It’s not like I wanted roosters. There are a few people living in Hull who have managed to have chickens. One, a lovely person named Catherine Goldhammer, wrote a book about it. Her book “Still Life with Chickens: Starting Over in a House By the sea” tells of her struggles to keep her chickens and her sanity while she battled town bylaws and cranky neighbors. There are still a few people in Hull who are raising outlawed chickens secretly. They are renegades- I won’t reveal their names (who would?), but I silently applaud.
Now we live in a town that allows all manner of pets. My dad would have been challenged to find a reason to deport pets here. I am still without my feathered pets. Maybe someday. In the meantime, Dad is no longer with us. He is probably living a better life, in the country on a wonderful farm, roaming with the cows and chickens. Yes, I probably should have a filter.