About fourteen years ago I started to think about chickens. I started to recall, fondly, that when I was a child we had chickens. We also had a barn and two acres of land, so having chickens made sense. Fourteen years ago my own family was far from any farms, living in a small two bedroom house. No one thought my fond recollections of having chickens were interesting or worth pursuing. Still I could not stop thinking about chickens and really my thoughts were becoming an actual plan to get chickens. I wanted to see their ruffled feathered forms in the yard. I wanted to hear their clucks and chuckles, their cackles. Nothing could discourage or dissuade me, and there were a lot of people that wanted to discourage and dissuade me. They pointed out all of the drawbacks of raising backyard chickens, like messes and noises and smells, and messes and noises and smells. Their sermon preached and repeated the same unholy chicken trinity: Noises, messes and smells.
Naysayers. I listened to them. I heard them. I knew they were probably right, and I smiled politely, trying to reassure them that I was not about to behave rashly. But I was about to behave rashly. I was waiting for the moment to be ripe, for the impulse to mature to obsession, for the obsession to bloom in to full scale action. I was patient and determined. I was going to have chickens.
In 2000 PBS aired a program that absolutely confirmed my
My day has come. I have my hen. I will have more again, when we have our own place. I do not consider myself a crazy chicken lady. Not yet. But perhaps by some people's standards I have arrived. The chickens do not come in the house. Well, not often. In fact this visit was a certain rarity, and we were amused by their curiosity, and by Benjamin's indignation.
Lady Betty Orpington makes me happy. And it's not that I think everyone should have chickens, because, really, they are noisy, messy and smelly, but what I do think everyone should have is an affinity for something in the natural world that makes them happy. Everyone should have the pleasure of connecting with a garden or a pet, with the forest or the ocean, and see it with all of its beauty and flaws, its strengths and its perils and in spite of whatever challenges it presents we should extend ourselves to foster a relationship. It strengthens my mind, body and spirit to be in the ocean or walking in the woods, and it does the same for me to hear Betty in the garden, to follow her and care for her, to learn about her.
I do not have any illusions about what she is, and I am not even opposed to roast chicken... I think that is another reason why I enjoyed filmmaker Mark Lewis' film; he demonstrated an affection for his subject without oversimplifying the complexity of the issues or forcing an agenda. The film was funny, maybe silly truthfully, it was entertainment-educational. The DVD is available now, and the program is airing on PBS this week. I cannot wait to see it again. With Betty? No, it'd be passed her bedtime.