Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Gentleman Farmer

You go out to the porch, slip on your sneakers, and walk down to the chicken coop. It's time to visit the girls. You walk down the steps, past the blackberry brambles, through the woods and enter the pen. Already you hear their peepings. Though you can stoop down to look through the small door leading to the ramp, you open the large door so as to see all of the bundles of black and white and tan feathers peeping away.

You squat down to see them better, to be less threatening, and watch as they hop down from the roost, visit the feeding trough, investigate the nesting boxes. They peck, peck, peck even if they are pecking at nothing at all.

Hard to think that six weeks ago, there were no chickens, no coop. Now the coop stands, complete with stained glass window (salvaged at the transfer station), three doors, ramp, and sturdy wire surrounding the pen. It's been less than a week since you picked up the girls, all eight of them. Four buff Orpingtons, two Wyandottes, and two barred rocks.

Though you and the Gingerbread Man decided not to name the chickens since they are livestock and not pets, you see their characteristics the longer you stand there, and it's hard not to name them. One of the Wyandottes likes to roost. The white-headed barred rock is an intrepid explorer. The black-headed barred rock hunts mosquitoes. The little buffs hang out in the nesting boxes. One of them is at the bottom of the pecking order, and you worry a bit for her. She looks pretty scraggly.

You watch them for a long time, until the mosquitoes get too bad. It's nice to have some female friends, even if they're just chickens. Perhaps someday you'll sit out there and read your revision to them and they'll cluck.

But for now, they are just eight pullets, peeping away, hopping up on the roost, pecking at the feed, slurping water.


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