Chickens and Current Events

img_1583Chickens don’t know about Donald Trump. I can’t stress enough the importance of this fact in my life right now: chickens do not know about Donald Trump.

A flock of chickens came to live with us this spring. Paul has wanted chickens since he was 4 years old. Being parents and naturally resistant to bringing more creatures into our lives, we put him off for six years.

First, we told him that we had to get our own house in Berea. That goal achieved, we told him that we had to get settled into our new home. We may even have told him that Daddy had to get tenure before we could get chickens. Finally, we said that he could possibly get chickens in the fourth grade. If his school was still hatching chickens through the 4-H program when he was in the fourth grade, he could bring one of the classroom chickens home.

This year, that distant date in the far future — 4th grade! — arrived. It was time to get serious about chickens. In the months leading up to their arrival, Chris and Paul read books about chickens and their care, and Chris worried about whether we would be up to the task. I researched chicken permits in the town of Berea and drew a little map of our coop for City Hall. I found a low-cost coop kit that looked like we could reasonably assemble it. I began accumulating supplies for keeping baby chicks in the basement, and Chris and Paul built a brooder out of a plastic bin and some bird netting. We talked to friends who had chickens. We joined the Tractor Supply rewards program.

After an eventful two weeks of classroom life with 22 lively fourth graders, two chickens came home in late March, and they were soon joined by four friends from Tractor Supply. One of the classroom chickens died quickly, but the other five of the flock stayed in the basement under the light long enough for us to be very tired of having chickens in the house. The cold spring delayed their move to the coop outside. At Mother’s Day, they finally moved into their own home outside our back door.

And that’s when Chris and I discovered the pure joy of having backyard chickens. Chickens don’t know about Donald Trump. Chickens don’t know about anything except being chickens. They are not weighed down by a knowledge of English and a subscription to three different newspapers.

Although the chicken’s are Paul’s, we adults  find ourselves drifting outside of an evening to watch them. Sure, that’s when they need their food and water changed, but we also let them out of their chicken run for an hour. We watch them wander around the yard, peck their way into some kind of order, and experiment with eating weeds and rocks.

Casey is the smallest chicken and believes that she should lead a life of free and wild adventure. It takes sneaking, herding, and sometimes the sight of the Terrifying Green Leaf Rake get her back into the coop at night. She is half the size of the household cat, but the cat is afraid of her. Big Amber and Pluff are the advanced chickens with impressive combs and are suspected of being possible roosters. The twins — Zelda and Big Ears — started life as “The Twins”  because we only recently started to be able to tell them apart. They are ciphers.

They all look like dinosaurs at times, especially when they stretch their necks. They fly for a few feet around the yard when they want to show each other who’s boss. Casey’s the boss, but Big Amber and Pluff don’t recognize her leadership. She has a tiny, rubbery comb, so her rule must be challenged daily.

What you discover, if you’re an adult with a beer sitting around in a chicken yard at around 7 PM, is that your stress and worries retreat like the cat from a marauding Casey the Chicken. The chickens do not know about work; they don’t know about parenting teenagers; they don’t know about college politics; they don’t know about illness and aging; and they especially don’t know about Donald Trump.

Donald Trump tries to suck up all the attention in the nation. He’s successful at it, but he doesn’t command attention with the kindness, gentleness, and goodness of a Mr. Rogers or a Koko the Gorilla (RIP).  What he’s done to immigrant children this month is so terrible and terrifying that a person feels like she ought to be paying attention every second of every day, like she should check twitter in the middle of the night, like she should never stop ceasing to write and march.

And so there’s nothing better than a few minutes of an evening to spend watching the chickens. They don’t know about the President. They can’t know about the President. For a short time each day, there’s nothing more refreshing