While each of our hens are unique, they all share a few characteristics in common. They're all undoubtedly beautiful, independent, entertaining, insatiable bug hunters, competitive, colorful, funny and always happy to see us. Sometimes, when we're all together, and each is vying for attention or clamoring to reach the best vantage point for the largest portion of snack, we sit and watch as the highest in the pecking order tries to keep everyone in line, and the smallest ones, tease. A few of our girls are eager to be the first to make their way into an empty lap resting in the shade of a Maple tree. And, they love to be read to. So far, their favorite author seems to be Alice Walker who has written a love story, of sorts, to her chickens entitled, "The Chicken Chronicles." In this little book, Ms. Walker not so much shows one how to care for chickens, but instead, how it feels to grow in love with them. Who would have ever known chickens would be so loveable?
Tending this little flock has been a learning process from the word, "Go!" and while much of their care is quite basic--cleaning their coop, run and yard, providing a healthy, varied diet and offering fresh water, daily, there have been a few times I've needed expert advice. Undoubtedly, the internet is filled with sites dedicated to the care and keeping of chickens while local libraries and bookstores have complete sections filled with books offering information regarding every detail pertaining to raising, and the care of ones feathered friends. But, if like us, you live in the city and are hoping to one day, house a few hens of your own in your back yard, you may find that adding a copy of the how-to manual, "Keep Chickens," by Portland based author, Barbara Kilarski, to your bookshelf would be a great idea and help. Her book is a perfect guide to the enchanting venture of discovering all about chickens, their breeds, likes and dislikes, temperaments, diets, limitations, in addition to the many joys and tribulations of living with a flock of one's own. I've sought her advice regarding why our chickens might not be laying, how much leg room is optimum inside their coop, what they can and shouldn't eat, what treats are healthiest and how to keep everyone from flying the coop. Gratefully, everything I've wanted to ask regarding the basics, about the breeds, from their care, to the construction of their coop, I've been able to do so within the chapters of this book. So very grateful our girls continue to be happy and vibrant, that the first sound I hear in the mornings from our "back 40" is their clucking and soft chicken chatter and one of the last sights of the evening can be watching as they walk in a single file at sunset, up their plank, into their hen house for the night.
During the 60's, Tommy Smothers, of the famed "Smothers Brothers," also had a chicken, albeit rather reluctantly. Dick and Tommy Smother's weekly program was a favorite in our family and my parents, brother and I laughed out loud as both brothers would spend an hour coaxing cooperation, or patience, from the other. Occasionally, in an effort to get everyone to feel sorry for him, the youngest brother, Tommy, would lament to the audience, and his brother, Dick, that their mom had always liked Dick best, as, he felt, was evident by the gifts she lavished upon each of her boys. While Dick, understandably so, was very content with his dog, wagon, scooter and a plethora of toys, much to his chagrin, Tommy was left standing, holding his pet chicken, Frank. Little did he know at the time that he may have received the best gift of all. Years, and six chickens later, I have little doubt he did. We love our girls!