I had the following conversation with the chickens the other night. I was moving them from their perch in the outdoor coop into their upper roost, which is in the shed. Rumba and Flag were not happy about this. These days the pair aren’t happy about much of anything. All I wanted to do was to brighten their altogether too short day.
Alys (entering coop): Hey birds, I’m here.
Rumba: She’s here.
Flag: Oh My God, she’s here.
A: Okay you have both turned your backs to me. Ignoring me won’t make me go away.
A: It’s cold out here. I need to move you into the upper roost where it’s warmer.
F: Is not.
R: Is not.
A: Is so.
F & R: Is not
A: Is so.
F & R: Isn’t.
A: Is so.
F: How would you know? You live in that nice warm cabin. You open the door and we feel the heat.
A: I know because I’m out here a lot. I feed and water you both, clean up your mess, and do the same with the goats.
R: Goats are stupid.
A: What makes you think that?
F: They never fluff out their feathers in order to stay warm.
R: They just make noise—baah baah baah.
A: You both make noise when you’re laying eggs.
F: Of course. It’s a joyous occasion when a chicken lays an egg and the world needs to know about it.
R: Oh Oh. I know where this conversation is going.
A: Yes, and it’s a joyous occasion when a goat has a baby and the world needs to know about it.
F: Are those goats going to have babies?
A: Not Ranger – he’s a male. But Stormy is going to have a baby in the spring.
R: How about you bring a rooster around here for a few days?
A: I’d consider it, but neither of you are laying any eggs.
R: Yes. That’s right. We are on strike. We’re not giving any changes until our demands are met.
A: And what are these demands?
F: The food situation here has become deplorable. We want fresh strawberry tops, and bean tops and shredded cabbage and cooked rice and fresh-picked tomatoes.
R: And we want them now.
A: But you’re getting the most expensive feed on the market – 18 percent protein, feather fixer.
R: Just look at us.
A: You both are looking really bad.
A: All your feathers are on the ground. It looks like someone turned a pillow inside out.
R: I would like for you to glue each and every one of those feathers back in place.
A: And put us in a heated, two story henhouse.
F: One with windows.
R: And fresh running water.
F: And Netfix. I want to see that new documentary that’s out – Chicken People.
R: That’ll give us some more demands.
A: Anything else?
F: Bring Freebird back. We miss her.
A: I’ll go down the list. No more greens until spring. Coop and roost quarters are going to stay as is although in the distant future we might rebuild. Netflix – I will watch Chicken People and give you a synopsis.
R: And Freebird?
A: I’m sorry to say, she’s dead and buried on the hill. There’s no way I can bring her back. And I miss her as much as you two do.
F: How about a third chicken?
A: I’ll work on it. If you promise me that you’ll both start laying eggs again.
R: Let’s table that one until spring.
A: Agreed. Now I must put you in the upper roost.
There’s the sound of squawking and a rustling of feathers as both birds launch themselves off their perch and into the air. They land on the Astro-turf ramp, and in a very haughty manner enter the roost where they ruffle their feathers and settle in for the night.
Next: 314. 11/14/17: The Writing Life: Keeping Busy