Henrietta stares balefully at me from her perch next to my printer. I think she knows I’m writing about her and her feathered friends.
Last month, I wrote a column about my husband’s previously unexpressed longing to be a chicken-owner. I believe I may have vowed to fly the coop if Derek brought home any poultry.
Turns out he didn’t have to.
A few weeks ago I opened a package from columnist Stefanie Pettit. It contained a wobbly rubber chicken. It’s not every day you get a chicken in the mail. The enclosed note read, “In light of your reticence to get live chickens, I thought I’d send you this rubber chicken instead, so you can contemplate the idea further with a replica in the house. Just squeeze in the middle and out comes the most disgusting egg you’ve ever seen.”
Of course, my sons loved the bird, whom I dubbed Henrietta. They gleefully squeezed and watched a rubber egg emerge from her nether regions. The egg with its yellow yolk floating around in an opaque membrane almost put me off omelets, entirely.
I never promised a chicken in every column, but Stefanie’s gift prompted me to share the reader feedback I received. Let this serve as a cautionary tale, especially because the City Council adopted an urban farming ordinance in March.
Two words best sums up my reader’s collective advice: buyer beware!
One wrote, “You had a good idea when you suggested that your husband plan a room for himself in the coop. My ex thought we should have chickens in the unused coop in the backyard. I was too busy with a new baby to realize the impact. When I finally had time to look around there were many chickens and rabbits for ME to feed and clean up after. At one time we had 120 rabbits running loose in the two-car garage. So my advice to you is to stop this before it gets out of hand.”
Another kind lady offered this wisdom: “Chickens can fly quite high. You won’t want them wandering around your backyard or they’ll be all over the neighborhood. Also, chicken areas tend to smell and attract flies. A neighbor who had some chickens for the first time said they were lots of work. They no longer have chickens.”
Are you sensing a theme?
But my favorite note came from a reader who is truly the voice of experience. She wrote, “Before my husband and I were married, he brought home three baby chicks. Didn’t know what sex they were, but soon found out, they were, Tom, Dick and Harriet. We grew very fond of them, so when we married in the backyard, Tom, Dick and Harriet were part of the wedding. Midway through the ceremony, someone let them out of the cage. They ran all over the lawn. Hilarious!”
She continued, “Fast forward 28 years. I am 77 now, and my dear darling is 90. Last summer, he went to Costco, bought the chicken coop, put it together, and purchased three chicks, again. He bought a shredder to keep the papers in the coop. He also bought a heat lamp to keep them warm. He never even spends that much on me! I told him it was his responsibility to take care of them. Anyway, bottom line, after three weeks the chickens went back to NW Seed, and the coop went to Habitat for Humanity.”
I shared the reader feedback with Derek, but he’s too smart to count his chickens before they’re hatched. In fact, I fear he’s become more focused on the rest of that urban farming ordinance.
Apparently, city dwellers can also have goats, pigs and other small livestock in their backyards.
Just last week, Derek served me a lovely breakfast in bed. He didn’t say anything about the freshness of the eggs he’d cooked, but he did ask what I thought about the bacon. “You like bacon, don’t you?” he asked. “Isn’t it tasty? Would you like some more?”
I’m horribly afraid I know where this is leading. One of these days a little piggy may just cry “Wee, wee, wee!” all the way to my backyard.
I’m not sure if this is what the City Council intended, but it gives a whole new meaning to bringing home the bacon.