I’m wondering today whether People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, PETA
have drop-in hours, for consultation. I just looked out the window and saw
sleet. Earlier, I put frozen fruit on my cereal and, not being fond of mango,
decided to share that piece with the chickens. So what I want to know from the
experts is whether giving chickens frozen mango on a cold day is ethical?
I should possibly mention that my god stock is currently very high, so there’s
no chance of me being turned in for governmental consideration or removal.
Earlier in the week I passed an uncomfortable half hour out in the cold,
defending them against a hawk. It was like this: I saw that they had gathered
beside the kitchen door, which at five o’clock is not an unusual behavior. But
they were making noises I’d not heard before. I opened said door. They kept
very still and continued to make the noises. I stepped outside.
“In the tree,” Mimo whispered. “Schtum.”
“Keep your head down,” Appenzeller.
“Bandit at one o’clock,” Pecorino.
“You might need a helmet.”
This last comment was, of course, from Cheddar, who has made remarkable
progress from the one often found at the back of the class who echoes others,
to the chicken with the most advanced vocabulary. She credits intercourse with
“It’s mostly virtual education,” she explained. “I rarely see the instructors,
but I find the discussion sessions interesting and I’m thinking I might go for
“Piled higher and deeper. It’s a reference to how knowledge is stored in the
chicken brain. If I didn’t have to spend so much time with these damn eggs I’d
be making swifter progress. I’m wondering whether being female is an
impediment of some kind. In life.”
We’ve been getting three eggs a week. We don’t know if they’re all from one
chicken—Cheddar is the most likely giver—or whether the yield will improve with
longer days. Egg production is light-dependent.
Suddenly a hawk flew out of one of our trees. All the crows in the world
started up, “There he is, the hawk.”
The chickens tried adding their version of harmony to the cacophony. It all
sounded very contemporary. I leaned back to the doorknob, opened the door,
invited Hamish out with me. He wanted to know whose music it was and whether
there was sonic space for howling or barking. I said I thought it was an
as-the-mood-takes-you kind of piece. Together we descended the steps and stood
in the most visible spot below, waving our arms (in one case) and destroying a
milk carton (in another). Hawkish signs of defiance, I hoped. The hawk
circled around, spied us, circled around again, decided that the target was no
longer viable and aborted the raid.
Down the steps came the chickens, singing hymns of praise to their mighty god
and dog. That lasted all of thirty seconds. Then they decided they’d better
eat something before it got dark. Lest the hawk prove cunning as a fox, we
supervised their feasting for a while. Well, I did, while throwing the milk
carton for Hamish, which he thought almost as much fun as chasing squirrels.
In case you were wondering: there isn’t a bird named kitty hawk, but there is a
kittywake (a type of gull). The term “chicken hawk” may refer to a
sharp-shinned hawk (what a great name), the red-tailed hawk or the Cooper’s
hawk. Red-tailed hawks, says Wikipedia, “may opportunistically hunt free-range
poultry.” The entry disapproves of the term but not the hunting. There’s as
yet no Birds for the Ethical Treatment of Birds movement, but the girls have
begun preliminary discussions regarding forming a chapter.
The current flap here is that we haven’t any actors. This has happened before
in the run up to a play, but it’s still un-nerving. Casting is not my problem…
until it is, which moment would be when we execute the back-up plan—have me
play Churchill. Meanwhile I shall be practicing my accent on the beaches, in
the bathtub and on the landing grounds…
If any of you are new to these pieces, I should explain that there are two
quite different kinds: ones with a subject line, “Hereabouts” attempt
philosophical analyses of the fowl world and its environs; those that finish
with the words, “carry on” grapple with E. M. Forster’s advice, “only connect.”
They’re also more encouraging.
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