Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Cooped Up: Falling for our Feathered Friends

Sometimes when you sit down to brainstorm a book, your mind goes on an odd journey... I found a photo and there was a perfect spot on the hat of the young woman where i could add something through photo editing. And being somewhat of a Victorian Era nut, I'd seen my share of add ons for a Victorian Hat and decided on a Bird... then I thought my hero could call my heroine 'Birdie' and what would make it even more fun? (At least for me) was to have a whole flock of chickens in the story!

I know a bunch of people that have chickens as part of their household and I feel a little sad and jealous when I talk to them because at the moment we are a chicken-less family. But that is neither here nor there.

When we first started to raise chickens it was because my son was a Boy Scout Camp Counselor. He was assigned to the Nature Hut and while he'd managed to capture one of the wild chickens at the camp, someone had let the chicken out and back into the wild.

What was a mom to do? I went to the local hatchery (which was conveniently about four blocks away in Kalihi, HI. The folks at the hatchery were so sweet... they gave us the whole rundown on chickens and their care and feeding and we left with some chicks that were extra from their last hatch. They went with me on the long drive up to Camp Pupukea on the North Shore of Oahu and spent about a week under a lamp for heat before they entered their big coop at the Nature Hut.

Once camp was over, my son brought them home. They were like his little babies and well, we were excited to have them at home since we were caring for my grandparents and my grandfather used to raise racing pigeons and liked the sound of birds.

Less than a month later, we started to have eggs. Eggs!  How awesome was that!

Well, part of the lesson from the hatchery was NOT to let the chickens get a taste for the eggs, because they will eat them if they get it in their head, so we learned the sound of the chickens as they laid the eggs and would rush out after we heard the fourth 'call' and use the long BBQ tongs to reach into the homemade coop and 'rescue' the eggs.

Now, all of my life, I've heard and read in books that chicks 'cheep' and chickens 'cluck' - well I'm here to challenge that notion. So much so because the four Pick-a-little ladies seemed to have three different languages. One they would use when it was just them outside. One when my mother or my son would go out to feed them. And one when I would go out to get the eggs and clean the coop.

I'm not kidding. I also will swear on any book that you want that they understood us... perhaps a little too well.

There was a week-long stretch where we only had three eggs from four chickens. Concerned for their health I went back to the hatchery. The lovely ladies there explained that if each wasn't laying an egg, there might be a blockage. So my job was to reach up INTO the egg vent and feel around for the blockage.

Okay, what?

Determined to help these babies and default members of the family, I went back to the house and sat down outside in front of the coop. I held up my hand and the four paced their way over to me. I strapped on a rubber glove that came from our endless supply of senior care items, and told the four feathered ladies that if the next day came and there were only three eggs... I would have to reach up into each of them until I found the blockage. I told them it was for their own good. It wasn't going to make me happy to do it. My son was at Band Camp and someone had to reach up in there and (yuck) take care of business.

The next morning, bright and early, I heard the chickens calling out after laying and when I went outside... we had four perfect eggs. Well goodness... wasn't that a funny twist and turn of events?

Eventually we had to leave the house in Kalihi when my grandfather passed away and our neighborhood wasn't zoned for four chickens... so we found a farm in Waimanalo that would allow the chickens to run free in the grass. So the farmer came to pick up our chickens and take them to his home.

To this day our family still misses our feathered friends. That's part of the reason why I added Chickens in "Home to Roost" It was a way to be close to them again, if only in my imagination.  It's a lot cleaner and less pecking. Still, nothing beats a cuddle from a big fluffy chicken.

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  1. Aren't chickens fun? We started out with them from a neighbor who wanted to get rid of their four pet ones. My oldest daughter fell instantly in love with them. When they got too old we then got 9 chicks and she sells the eggs she gets. She does everything for them - I don't have to lift a finger! I adore watching them, though. They can be so hilarious and full of personality. Thanks for sharing! Your story made me laugh.

  2. I've always disliked chickens, probably because of early childhood experiences. Still, they are fascinating creatures. I can see why you would add them to a story. Doris