A Friday ritual.
A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week.
A simple, special, extraordinary moment.
A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.
When change comes knocking at your door, life often looks a great deal worse before it gets better.
Especially if you are a chicken.
Our chickens are molting, where they quite literally change their old feathers for new ones. This lady looks ridiculous now but give her another week and I’m sure she’ll be turning the rooster’s head again!
I, like every other mother out there, on occasion, make questionable parenting decisions.
This year, for the first time in many years, we raised broiler chickens. Big, fat, white chickens that eat a ridiculous amount and are ready to put in the freezer in just nine weeks. This last weekend, the nine weeks were up.
“You guys are butchering 45 chickens on Sunday?!? What are you doing with the kids?”
The answer, the many times I was asked, was always nothing. They’d be home, able to be in the middle of the action or in the house, which ever they wanted.
It wasn’t the answer most people were expecting.
Now, to be fair, I’m sure half of the people who asked that question know the difficulties involved in trying to get any task done with three kids on hand, and it’s true, many times when we do big projects we find friends for them to play with or grandma’s to visit.
The other half have probably never been a part of butchering chickens or if they have didn’t have kids hanging around at the same time.
But we have always felt that this is a thing the girls should be involved in so we kept them home and they were still sleeping when we got up to start the process.
All three trickled outside still in pajamas to check out what was happening. And while they left from time to time they spent most of the morning with us.
Jane, the girl who was very concerned that we were going to eat those cute little chicks the day we brought them home, helped John with the beheading by saying a nice goodbye to a few. She was more at ease with it than many adults I know would have been.
Clara got a lesson on how to gut a chicken from her grandma and did the last bird all by herself. She’s six. She’s pretty much amazing.
And while Ivy wasn’t as interested in being hands-on, she listened with rapt attention to the anatomy lesson grandma and Great Gramps gave her and now can identify all the internal organs of a chicken, and knows what they all do. I’m sure she does because they quizzed her and I heard her pass with flying colors.
Jane is excited for her Dad to grill her a chicken to eat. Clara is, rightfully, proud of her gutting experience. And Ivy, when asked, cheerfully told me all about how the gizzard is her favorite organ because you can cut it open, it looks pretty and it’s neat.
I, like all the other parents out there, make plenty of questionable parenting decisions. But I’m confident that this wasn’t one of them.
I’ve got a thieving chicken.
But Jessie, you say, you have 90 chickens! How do you know which one it is?
I do have 90 chickens but I only have six Delaware chickens. And of those only three are adults and two of those adults are bold. Very bold. In fact if they were much larger, or I was much smaller, they would be terrifying.
But Jessie, you say, they are chickens! You love chickens! Why would they be terrifying?
These are the two chickens that I saw catch a mouse out in the open, beat it to death and then fight over it’s remains. These are the chickens that have hunted down toads and leave no doubt that birds are close relations to dinosaurs. These are chickens it would be best not to be a small creature around.
But one of them is bolder than the other, and now I know which one.
But Jessie, you say, they look the same!
The extra bold chicken invaded a little party we were having on the deck, stole a hot dog right of a plate and ran off with it to the cries of distress from the small boy who had just lost his dinner.
She is the thieving chicken.
But Jessie, you say, how can you tell it’s her and not her sister?
Because when you are a chicken and you steal a ketchup covered hot dog out of a bun you get ketchup-ed.
And apparently, ketchup doesn’t wear off right away, it just turns black.
It’s true, I have 90 chickens, but this one, is the thieving chicken.
I like to keep my animals happy.
I let my chickens range free, I open their mobile coop door in the morning so they may roam about all day and I lock them up at night to keep them safe. Except when I introduce new young chickens to the daily routine. Then I open the coop door every morning and crawl under the chicken coop catching and counting chickens every night. Those silly young birds take awhile to figure out that even if you can see your friends above you, there is no getting through the wire floor, you just have to use the door. Eventually they will figure it out. Until then I figure that when I find myself under the chicken coop on one knee other leg extended for balance, one elbow on the ground because that hand is already holding a chicken stretching as far as I can for a second bird, well, that’s just an excellent ab hold.
These chicken induced exercises will be slightly amusing to me for about a week and then I will be second guessing my “let’s have happy chickens” philosophy.
I also try to keep my dog happy. He’s my dog, I love him. So I let him out to run around outside with me whenever I’m out. The other day he scrummaged around in the woods for ten minutes while I watered plants. Ten minutes and he came back, muddy, wet, tired, hot, limping on a hind leg and smelling like he rolled in something much deader than than the freshly caught chipmunk he proudly gave me. But happy? Oh was he happy!
Me, I was second guessing my “let’s have happy dogs” philosophy.
I just got a pile of little ducklings and a pair of goslings. And so, because it’s been so nice out, I made them a little wire pen they can be outside in during the day in the front yard. I put the goslings in and they munched on leaves and grass and looked oh so happy. I put the ducklings in and they nibbled and explored, chased bugs and happily popped right out through the holes in the wire. I then spent the next two hours babysitting my new babies and herding the occasional duck back in the pen while trying to think what else I had around that I could patch the holes up with. The shade was a perfect temperature with just a hint of a breeze, the grass was nice and soft and the little birds were endlessly entertaining.
I’m pretty sure “lets have happy ducklings and goslings” is my favorite philosophy!
It seems I’ve taken a lot of pictures of chickens and children lately. And while they are similar beings in that no small garden plant is safe from either of them and food disappears in vast quantities whenever they are around, I feel it’s safe to say that in most other respects they are quite different.
For instance when approached by a camera, they react quite differently.
Children (my children anyway), get a serious attack of the sillies.
Chickens, do not.
Children, barge the camera on the mistaken theory that everything is funnier if it’s closer.
Chickens, do not.
Children, are sad when their sisters have abandoned them and the photo session is over.
Chickens, are not.
(At least I’m pretty sure they aren’t, this girl looks fairly content to me.)
Also, if you live in the area and are interested in purchasing a chicken or two once they are ready for the oven let me know, the chicken order e-mail is going out tonight!