A Day For Change

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Alberta and Josephine not long after arriving last year.

Pressed for time this morning, I present a short narrative of the day I started raising chickens, overcoming my fear of the unknown to pursue a worthwhile, life changing endeavor. I hope you enjoy it. Note: I figured out how to use photo captions today!

“Chickens”
Joseph McMahon

I had never raised chickens before. I had never been interested in raising chickens before. Yet, here they were, two chickens, in my backyard, straight from the farm.

When my friend, John, asked earlier in the year if I were interested in a pair of birds when his eggs hatched and they were old enough to be transported, I sarcastically replied, “Sure, why not?” Forgetting John is both completely deranged AND a man of his word, I relegated the matter to the far corners of my mind.

I should not have been surprised to receive the phone call that fateful afternoon: “Dude, I’m on my way down with your birds, see you soon!” I was in shock until I remembered I had, in fact, agreed to said bird delivery. I awaited the arrival, trying to figure out what the heck I was going to do with two chickens. I had no coop, no feed, no experience and suburban neighbors. I nervously mulled these hurdles around, over and over in my mind, finally resolving to cross these bridges as I came upon them, not to be afraid of but rather embrace this new, life changing experience. I am, after all, a reasonably intelligent adult and will not be frightened off by nebulous, far-away possibilities which may or may not arise.

Finally, the madman arrived with the strange, chirping and peeping box. Peeling the towel off the top, he revealed the contents. When someone says “chicken,” images of a fat, white bird pop into the mind. These birds were NOT fat or white, rather grey, black and tiny. John explained to me these were a breed called Dominique and were, in fact, distant relatives of what we today call chickens. They are more akin to a grouse or jungle fowl and are of the type which would be found on a farm in Colonial New England.

Taking the odd fowl into my back yard, we carefully removed the wire from the top of the box and gently lifted them out. As the sun was already setting (such fowl have poor night vision and prefer to roost off the ground), we ventured to set them up for the night in a tree. This proved to be too high, as we were met with a cacophony of squeals and shouts. The neighbors took notice of this, warily asking, “Whatcha got over there?” to which I replied, “Chickens, sort of,” holding a small, noisy bird over the fence to show, explaining the intricacies of how this kind-of-sort-of-is-but-isn’t a chicken. The response was “Okay, whatever, cool,” somewhere between disbelief and amusement.

Eventually, we found the ideal spot to roost was on top of a deck chair. I was somewhat skeptical of this, being inexperienced in the ways of strange fowl but was assured by John, “That’s how they do.” Before departing, John detailed the ins and outs of bird tending, supplying me with the basics needed and a short shopping list. This put nearly all of my concerns at ease.

The pair at the beginning of winter 2017.

I was apprehensive about them being exposed to the elements and predators all night. However, next morning, there they were, huddled together on the same chair, uneaten, not frozen solid and in fine spirits. With winter approaching, however, shelter would be necessary. Searching the Internet high and low, I found what seemed to be a suitable coop and ordered it. Meantime, the birds had taken to the habit of living under my deck, striking out occasionally to feed on bugs and have a drink of water. Upon the arrival and construction of the coop, they continued this behavior for a few days, unsure of the strange, new structure. Eventually figuring out it was theirs, the pair moved in and made it home.

Making themselves at home in the coop.

Fast forward to today, less than a year later, all of my fears and apprehensions about this new endeavor proved to be totally unfounded and the birds, now named Josephine and Alberta, are grown up, happily free range in the yard, eat everything in sight and produce delicious eggs.

As I write this, a tiny new chapter in the backyard bird saga is unfolding in a plastic crate two feet to my left. Her name is Amelia, as she can already fly.

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