I think everyone is due an update on my friend Diana’s urban chickens, aka the world’s easiest research. My blog post of May 13 introduced the chicks (Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy) when Diana was beginning to wonder if Amy might be, oops, really an Amos. Recall that hens are perfectly welcome within city limits. Roosters are met with a giant Not Welcome sign on the two highways that lead into our town. Even though ours is a university community and might be accustomed to it, crowing is technically not allowed.
I left off when the rapidly-growing chicks were still living in the garage, the coop just delivered and awaiting set-up. When I next visited I was dumbstruck by the compact, white coop, complete with a wire-enclosed run, established in a nook of her flowered back yard. Diana, a long-haired, elegant and impeccably dressed woman with a Ph.D., described driving through town with bales of straw preventing the trunk of her BMW from fully closing. And picture how she fits in out at the Tractor Supply buying chicken feed alongside the older farmers in their bib overalls and caps, the BMW parked next to battered big-bed pickups. It’s even better when her husband is with her because he is most often in a crisp white shirt and has a strong British accent.
Obviously I wasn’t paying attention in second grade when we learned that chickens sleep inside on a roost and go outside into a barnyard or an enclosed “run” to peck around during the daytime because it’s all come as a surprise to me. (I am still trying to envision what happens when we have our first blizzard, but that will be another post, I imagine.) I hear it’s instinctive for them to go in and out based on the light, but in the case of Diana’s urban chickens, the birds also have to be enclosed into their roost (meaning the door fastened behind them when they go in on their own, at nightfall). This is to protect them from predators—Diana mentioned raccoons as an example—even though their run is wire covered.
Once the coop (with indoor roost and laying box) and outside run was assembled and chickens moved in, Diana began getting up by 5 a.m. to let them out into the run. We had a very cold, very wet spring, and maybe people were expecting her enthusiasm to wane, but not so. And Diana was right on hand to close them in every evening, too. I hear a lot of farmers don’t do the locking-in part, but they also are more casual about losing chickens. I definitely don’t want to be around Diana if she loses one of these chickens! Does Hallmark even make chicken-loss sympathy cards?
Anyway, a problem arose when the couple was headed back to England for a while. Someone could feed and check water, but Diana felt it was too burdensome to ask someone to do the 5 a.m. routine. What to do? How about a solar powered electronic door for the roost? Works like magic, programmed to open just before dawn and close just after dark. When the chickens start laying—usually at 5 months old—the cost per egg over each of their lifetimes shouldn’t be over $33.97. That’s nothing, however. On one of my husband’s Pacific Northwest fishing trips with his brothers, they actually did catch their dinners. Afterward, to amuse themselves at the campfire, and because one of them remembered his phone had a calculator on it, they figured up the price of the dinner if they added in transportation, fishing guide and their cabin. The fish had cost them upwards of $275. per pound as I recall. And I doubt they added in the liquor.
For that matter, what does each word of a novel really cost the author? Love takes us to strange and beautiful places.
I haven’t found a place for the chickens in the novel I’m working on now. But I’m only on the first third. Who knows? If not in this one, you can be sure the world’s easiest research will not go to waste. And there will be an update…stay tuned for the rest of Amy’s story.
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