It came as no surprise to hear the chirping in the garage; it was no secret that the chickens were back, not the same chickens of course, those who had gone to meet their destinies months ago. No, these chickens were the product of a second grade unit on reproduction, and the teacher of the class had helped the children do everything from providing a nest as warm and soft as their mother’s body to a small, clean cage lined with wood chips, an electric light bulb to keep them warm at night, and sufficient room to fool around in.Acually the teacher had helped them to do everything but the final determination, and this is where Jim comes in. You wouldn’t think this town was small enough for a second grade teacher to know exactly who to call, who would be willing to take over the chickens and spare the second graders’ worries of a mass execution of harmless babies.
Of course, Jim said.
And there they were. But not for long as it turned out. Their heads soon started bumping the tops of their cage and they had to be moved to second stage accommodations in the yard under the gym set deck, and finally their present, permanent location up on the hill in the trees. They are a handsome bunch, two golden hens, two black ones like our last batch with combs and wattles like the last, and not necessarily roosters, and two black and white speckled, also without any thing on their heads. I know that there is distinction among breeds in the time needed for maturation, but we do not know what kind these are, nor do we know whether or not they are bred for laying or for eating.
Here we arrive at another more important topic. What is the reason behind our pleasure in owning the chickens? Of course there is a flip answer that says eggs are cheap, nutritious food and adds that one’s own eggs are also cleaner and less contaminated by various chemicals. What nonsense that is. While it is true that Betsy is pretty fond of eggs as long as they are tagged natural she likes them. Jim doesn’t care where they come from. Another reason for the chickens could certainly be their environmental plusses–good mulch, fertilizer for the lawn, a certain amount, not too much, of scratching in the beds–not enough to dig up the plants, but the right amount for weeding and cultivating. And one that I think of as being really useful–controlling Japanese beetles by eating grubs.
I can tell you right now that the real causes are all abstractions.
1. beauty. The birds begin their hunt for food when very young, the go in a crowd and they are constantly changing the view as they interact with the various flower beds and lawns.
2. love. Both Jim and Betsy enjoy cuddling the chickens and hens, sometimes they seem to hug and kiss them.
3. pride. An excellent conversational theme. We all like to talk about our chickens to visitors and friends. They always seem to enjoy it and congratulate us on our environmental skills.
One wonders what this future will contain. Some of our other losses hinted at nature’s brutality. Will these hens be stolen by dark forces? The place of the egg in our human lives continues on undiminished An article this the New Yorker by Rebecca Mean speaks about ant eggs as something fun to try. I actually don’t often think of food as fun although I’m always willing to enjoy something like candy apples or acorn squash soup bowls. The man, whose name I must have blocked out, believes in food as fun or experience. Only in an affluent society could you go to Mexico and through a contact get a hundred dollars worth of bootlegged ant eggs. For one thing I suppose if somebody dug them up there would be dirt in them.
Anyway, as long as this kind of weird extravagance goes on I don’t think we need to worry about the economy. And I think I really do hope that there are scholars willing to learn about the past in a very personal way, while I can still be happy tp know that or the course of a few thousand years and improvements in food gathering and preparation we have established the chicken as the most trustworthy producer of eggs and eggs that taste least like the olden days when we still lived in trees.