Chickens Make Me Dirty

Because I’m a mother, and because I’ve worked on farms, I know that caring for creatures makes a mess. All that input, all that output, not to mention the emotional blow-outs along the way … You work with the end goal in mind: life, well-being, sustenance.

When Jim finally agreed to chickens, I knew it would be a mess. Taking care of living beings, as we’ve established, is not a tidy process. On that first day in August when the chickens moved in, I gazed in wonder at the perfectly tidy little coop in my yard. Teeny chickens who hadn’t even made teeny poops yet, in a nice cedar box on a green grassy zone in my yard. I knew it would not last.

Here it is:

Look how neat and clean that thing is. I think the chickens were mitten-sized, tops.

Ahh, isn’t that nice? It looked that way for maybe a few weeks.

The chickens are now giant beasts. I tacked a haphazard chicken run onto that nice little coop, because they gack up the yard so bad that the kids had to wear muck boots just to play on the swing. Because I suck at building things, it looks terrible and the chickens get out all the time. I think it’s the writing gods’ way of making me get up from my desk and stretch, all the chicken escapes I have to tend to. I haven’t clipped their wings, and they’re probably bored, so there are maybe 4 jailbreaks a day. They’ve even untied garden wire to get out of the coop. God knows how that happened. Sometimes all I can do is drag a spare window or piece of fencing out of the garage to block an escape hatch until I can figure out something better.

A few months ago, Jim moved the coop, because it made our yard look like a refugee camp (he said behind the garden was a better place for it, but I know the truth).

Due to all these mutations, plus insulating for winter, here is the coop now:

I think I've seen this same design under a bridge downtown.

So yeah, my coop is a mess. But those chickens are big, happy beastie girls and I like them. Though only one of them lays eggs (get on it, ladies!), they make me get dirty. I think getting dirty is a good thing.

I spend all day running words through my head. Not very tangible work, and a very clean pursuit. It can make a woman feel fairly batty. So when I get my hands nice and muddy with actual physical labor, it levels me out. I muck out the hay. I feed and water. I patch the chicken run (over and over and over). When the chickens waddle up to me, mooching for food, I pick them up and listen to their little harrumphs and clucks, and their chicken feet get my coat muddy. It can be a pain, but it’s a good balance to that clean, quiet desk. And in the end, I get to eat eggs because of them, which is one of my favorite things to do.

Life. Well-being. Sustenance.

If I wanted a clean version of chickens, suppose I’d just make them out of paper, like these totally cute desktop free-range chickens from the blog How About Orange, that my friend Kelly just sent me. I might make them anyway, just to have auxiliary chickens. As far as I can tell, they don’t get you dirty.

Then again, they don’t lay eggs either (GET ON IT, LADIES!).

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