Thursday, May 5, 2011

Do chickens deserve diapers? and other deep thoughts

I've had feathered friends on the brain lately. Last week, the raven; this week, the chicken. (Perhaps a peacock post next week to round out the series?)

Three things have occurred to me about chickens, specifically:
  1. Their bum rap, or how I had pegged them wrong all these years;
  2. Chicken nuggets—of wisdom and serene philanthropy, that is;
  3. Chicken couture, encompassing accessories and—praise be rapscallion ingenuity!—chicken diapers. A bum wrap of a different sort.
I am gratified you know me well enough to know I have not been thinking of chickens as an app most common to humankind: drumsticks. I've said it before, I'll say it again. I do not blog about food.
    Back when my dwelling was in a 7,000-island republic in the Far East, animal rights was an alien concept. If humans lived in cardboard boxes along the freeway and galvanized tin ramshackle huts by a stagnant river, how could anyone expect animal shelters? Dogs were underfed gadabouts, expertly dodging traffic. Cockfights were an afternoon pastime. (I speak in the past tense, although these conditions still exist.)

    My childhood impression of chickens, consequently, is heavily shaded by scenes of violence and survival strategy. My childhood friend John B sent me this picture of a rooster bred to fight to the death. (It was not Born to be Alive.) It illustrates a series of verses—let's not insult poets by calling it poetry—scribbled on a vexing afternoon when I was 16.

    Chicken's Lament 
    by Scrollwork

    Something set me off, careening
    And I didn't know when to stop
    Screeching, scratching and insisting
    My opinion was on top.
    Oh! good grief, Mother Hen
    It's my neck upon the block
    For I've done it once again—
    dared defy the dreaded flock.
    I'll be cubed into a bouillon
    Chopped and locked into a freezer
    Challenging the crowd's opinion
    Only made me lose my temper.

    Poultry squabbles make me weary
    Wish I had my eggshell back
    Now my feeling's kinda eerie
    Am I sure I'm not a duck?

    (John B also sent this picture.)

    I lived a somewhat tormented life between 16 and 46. Being opinionated and outspoken earns big honking demerits when you're a) young  b) the youngest, and c) a woman in male-dominated domestic and corporate cockpits.

    At 47 I crossed the road (with a swift kick to my booty), began building my own roost, and finally made peace with my quirkiness. I went from "Am I sure I'm not a duck?" to "I am my own chicken. Peck on that."

    Not surprisingly, my view of chickens is now comfy-cozy-warm-and-fuzzy. I apologize to the chicken collective for my earlier wrongheaded stereotyping (which all stereotyping is). Mine is now a mindset that leans toward goodwill toward global cohabitants.

    In perfect serendipity, artist Kristin Love's Namaste Yoga Birdie Dish positioned itself in my line of sight.
    "This "Namaste" dish is one of the pieces I have established for Charity Donations in conjunction with The Etsy Mud Team. We are working together to raise support and donations for our fellow potters in Japan, specifically in the historic pottery village of Mashiko, which was hard hit by the recent earthquake..."
    In addition to my expanded vision, I have developed a capacity for appreciating details beneath the surface made apparent only from the scratch and peck that chickens engage in. And sometimes I find solutions right under my nose.

    I'd been frustrated in my search for the right-sized S-hooks to rig a thread spool holder from an expandable garden trellis. I'd bought and returned S-hooks that were too thick for spools to perch on. A few minutes ago, I clicked on a post titled Chicken Socks on Scratch and Peck, illustrator Lauren Scheuer's blog. The title caught my eye because I was researching chicken couture, the third bullet for this post.

    Lauren wrote about fashioning S-hooks from the tops of wire hangers to hang up treats for her girls. How many times had I stood in my laundry room and looked right through those wire hangers? My spools are gonna love their new roost.

    BTW, I love how in chicken sub-culture they call them "the girls." They also have creative individual names. Blogger Josh Elliot of The Occasional Chicken calls his girls Noodle Soup, Salad Sandwich, and Pot Pie. What would you call yours if you had one?

    One can never take oneself too seriously around chickens. A misstep? The key is to recover gracefully. An excellent example of mishap makeover is this  Sunny Side (or Which Came First) brooch from etsy seller An Embellished Life. She made it from a damaged vintage egg cover. I am charmed beyond measure. People from the Vintage Ages liked to have covers for everything, and they were quaint as well as elegant. A far cry from the broomstick handle and toilet paper roll covers of my childhood.

    On the subject of mishaps, I must quit pussyfooting around the chicken diaper issue. It is of course only an issue if you keep indoor chickens.

    The best exposition on the concept is the following excerpt from "We Aint' Chicken with our Chicken Any More" on The Chicken Whisperer:
    A nappie that a chicken wears when outside of its coop.
    A proper little catch-all to collect the chicken's poop
    We got this rooster that we've raised from an egg.
    It's hard fer us to shut him out when that rooster starts to beg.

    He likes to be inside with us, but we've found it' ain't no joke
    We ain't got him trained yet.  He ain't reliably housebroke.
    So we bought this chicken diaper with instructions how to use
    The little garment on our bird to cover its caboose. 

    I really just wanted an excuse to post my verses, Chicken's Lament. But look what lovely finds emerged! From the sublime to the absurd, as they say. In bloggy world, they also say that content curation is the new black. How I resisted! My blog looks good in black.

    Now I'm hoping my favorite author, Samantha Sotto, pops in and posts in the comment section that soon-to-be-famous chicken-related quote from the hero in her upcoming novel, Before Ever After.

    Happy clucks to you.