Got a call the other day from my friend Charlie in Brooklyn. He said that he was thinking of getting a couple of chickens to keep in his apartment so that he could get really fresh eggs. I got on my high horse and asked, “What do you know about raising chickens?”
“I’m good with birds,” Charlie countered.
“Remember how I taught my parrot to stand on his head for money?”
It was true. I don’t know how he did it, but when he’d pull a dollar bill from his pocket and wave it in the air, Webster – that’s what he named the bird – would invariably hold onto the cage bars and stand on his head. Maybe the fact that Charlie’s an obsessive-compulsive provided the repetition needed to teach his pet such a trick.
I had just cleaned out the coop and warned Charlie that chickens were a lot messier than his little Webster. “Also,” I continued, “hens can be noisy. You ought to hear them scold me when I try to slip an egg out from under them.”
“They don’t crow like roosters,” Charlie said.
“No, but they argue over a spot in the laying box. Your neighbors would never stand for their clucking.”
“I guess you’re right,” my friend said of his shot-down idea.
I felt bad because Charlie is the biggest fan of eggs and chickens I know. I always bring him some on trips to Brooklyn and he invariably raves about how much better my free-range, naturally fed, browns are.
In response to his parrot story, I told him about a trick my favorite chicken, Danielle, does.
Early this spring, my reigning rooster, Geezbrook, who fathered almost all of this year’s egg-laying rookies, was challenged and defeated by one of his sons.
When I arrived on the scene, the old man was cowering in a corner with his back facing his attacker.
I scooted them out into the yard and they went at it again, Geezbrook seeming to have new heart against his son, who got down like an alligator coming through a fan of feathers.
They both drew blood with the old man losing the fight until I slapped them both several times with my red plastic shovel.
Distracted, they headed for cover in a hedgerow.
When I went back to the coop to gather eggs, I noticed that several of the hens had bald spots on their backs caused, no doubt, by the roosters practicing their dominance.
Luckily, Pee Wee, my favorite chicken, hadn’t suffered any damage or I would have gone after the bullies with hatchet in hand. Instead, I tried to catch them, which was no easy task after they had had a taste of the shovel.