March 20, 2014 in Washington Voices

Front Porch: Husband’s chicken plan for the birds

By The Spokesman-Review
 

On Saturday, Derek and I will celebrate our 28th anniversary. You’d think after all these years together, I’d know him quite well, but he can still surprise me. In fact, this week he made an announcement at the dinner table that has left me shaken.

Our son mentioned that the neighbor across the street had acquired several chickens.

Slicing into his grilled ribeye, Derek said, “Really? I’d like to get some chickens – at least four.”

I almost choked on my mashed potatoes. “You want to get what?”

“Chickens,” he replied. “Fresh eggs are so much better than the eggs you buy at the store.”

I began to wonder if he’d hit his head on his last cross-country skiing expedition and forgot to tell me.

“If you think I want to get a rooster wake-up call at the crack of dawn every morning, you need to consider how I respond to my alarm clock,” I said. (Let’s just say that clock takes a licking but keeps on ticking.)

This comment prompted a flurry of smartphone Googling at the dinner table, an activity strictly prohibited at family meal time. The result of those fast-finger queries? Apparently, roosters aren’t necessary for hens to lay eggs. Roosters are only necessary for more chickens.

The reproductive habits of poultry is not my idea of appropriate dinner conversation. However, having won the rooster battle, Derek forged onward.

Evidently, he’s been thinking these fowl thoughts for quite awhile because he grabbed his Kindle and showed me a chicken coop condo available from Costco.

Shaking my head, I said, “That’s not big enough.”

He grinned. “You mean you want more than four chickens?”

“No,” I said. “But if you bring home any hens, you’d better make sure you have room to sleep with them in that condo.”

A sudden silence fell.

Then our sons started snickering. Derek wisely changed the subject to the French silk pie he’d purchased for dessert, but I wasn’t fooled. Anyone who has bookmarked a chicken coop advertisement on their Kindle is seriously considering a poultry purchase.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m no hen-hater. I love chicken! Baked, broiled or barbecued, I serve it several times a month to my always-hungry brood. But I have no desire to see my dinner in its natural, unfrozen state. I don’t want to have those clucking, beady-eyed creatures anywhere near my home.

Also, can you imagine the agony these feathered fiends would inflict on my indoor cats? I shudder to think of the suffering Milo and Thor would endure if they had to see chickens strutting around the backyard whilst they could only watch impotently from the windows. That’s a crime worth reporting to the ASPCA.

It’s not like Derek is unaware of my poultry antipathy. He’s heard my groans each time I’ve received an assignment to write about urban chicken ownership.

In the seven years that I’ve written for this section of the newspaper, I’ve had four editors. Three of them have asked me to write about urban chickens. In fact, my previous editor left journalism and has become a chicken farmer. I’m not even kidding. I do not understand this broody editorial fascination.

Until recent zoning changes, these assignments proved difficult because many city residents didn’t want to go on record as owning chickens. This was due to fear of neighbor complaints and worries about running afoul of zoning regulations.

I’d trudge out to a home somewhere, dutifully inspect coops and their feathered inhabitants, get straw and chicken excrement stuck on my shoes, only to have the source say, “You’re not going to use my name in the article, are you?”

It’s enough to make a saint squawk.

Then there are the readers who frequently ask me about Miss Chicken. Columnist Stefanie Pettit has written many columns about an errant chicken that wandered into her yard several years ago. I’ve received emails about Miss Chicken and often readers will greet me with, “I LOVE your columns. How is Miss Chicken?”

I must confess I’ve been tempted to reply, “She was delicious, thank you,” but Front Porch readers are generally so kind, I don’t have the heart to snark.

Which leads me back to my husband’s fowl longings. Derek can be very persuasive, but if a chicken condo suddenly appears in our backyard, well, this chick is flying the coop.

Contact Cindy Hval at dchval@juno.com. Her previous columns are available online at spokesman.com/ columnists.

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