We watch the YouTube video “How to Pick Up a Chicken.” The woman holds out her open palm full of cracked corn and the hens come over and gently peck at it. Kimber won’t have any of this. She freaks out when I get within three feet of her, and the Seven Chicks hop on their little chick motorcycles and peel out, too.
Back to the video. The woman calmly picks up the hen, carefully holding the wings against its body, cuddles it next to her breast like a baby and then pets it. I am sick with jealousy. “That’s a stunt chicken,” says the Bearded One.
This weekend, we were at a neighborhood barbecue and a 70-year-old woman from Texas gently pooh-poohed all of our excuses — Kimber came from the wild, she’s a protective mother, she’s a banty and quicker than average chickens. “Throw a towel over her and she’ll stop in her tracks.” We came home, the Bearded One tossed his shirt over her, and she shot like a cannon ball out the other direction screaming that she’d just been mugged.
Back to the video. Cracked corn probably isn’t any better than the bowl of oatmeal and blueberries I bring them each morning which they love, and they only flock to that after I step back. The Bearded One managed to touch Kimber once and she pecked him. He says it didn’t hurt. No blood, but we both agree that grabbing her seems rude. Plus, all week she has been losing her tail feathers — molting — which we read is normal in the fall, but she pulls them out like baby teeth, and it looks stressful.
Between the house and the poultry palace, which is on the highest ground on the property for drainage purposes, are some of the gardens — and each morning as I go to open the chicken coop and put out their food (we put it in a garbage can overnight to keep the rats away) I pass through the pumpkin patch.
The neighbor children, Hansel and Gretel, picked out their pumpkins this week when they were over meeting the chickens. They, too, wanted desperately to pick up a chick, but we said no, not yet. As if it was even possible. They are 3 weeks old now, fuzzy with new feathers, and all have names. The two blondes are Marilyn and Dusty; the five black ones are Blackie, Spot, Steve, Steve, and Tux. Different roosters could have fathered them. We believe that Tux was sired by a penguin.
The host of the block barbecue is going hunting this week and we rigged for him to take some zucchini to his cabin to fry as there will be six men congregating. I’m going to throw in some cucumbers and cabbage, too, to go with all their meat. “Give ’em kale!” my devilish inner voice says. I have tons and am tired of it. We’ve had a lot of stir fry this summer. But it would wilt by the time they used it. IF they used it. Not everyone is a fan.
Kale chips were a disappointment, I hate to say. I sprayed them lightly with olive oil and put them in the dehydrator as instructed; they were as light as tissue paper. Or snowflakes. To me, it was too much work for too little return. As the Bearded One said, “I’m agin ’em.” He called them a retelling of The Emperor Has No Clothes. There was nothing there. A man could starve. No kale chips for the hunters.
And no kohlrabi, either. This is the first year I’ve grown it — shoot, I thought kohlrabi was a Middle Eastern country until recently — and I haven’t harvested it, yet. It’s a mild, sweet bulb that grows above ground. They’ll be going to the root cellar and maybe to the chickens.
The Bearded One and I will pick the chickens up eventually. Surely. Even though now, as Kimber screams at the neighbor’s cat, we turn away from the video and race down the stairs, through the pumpkins and up to the poultry palace. We spot her sounding the alarm on top of the feed trash can.
Little Star Wars troopers on flying motorcycles circle the aviary. Chick missiles swoop from the top of the coop, and Marilyn is a hard-hit line drive, foul of course, from the fence post. “Oh, yes, let’s go pet a chick,” says you-know-who. We duck and cover.