Chickens In The Trees

I’m in the kitchen making pumpkin pulp and explaining to my oldest Twenty-Something daughter about clipping a chicken’s flight feathers on one wing to keep them from flying the coop.

“They’re bantams, so they’d have no problem with a six-foot fence and heading straight for South America.  They’d probably only make it to the cedars, though, before a raccoon or owl got them.”  Our daughter gasps and drops the Pumpkin Cheesecake recipe on the counter.

“You mean the Sesame Street song ‘There Are Chickens in the Trees’ is TRUE?”

“Yes,” I say, and her shock resonates in me.  How is it possible, that in almost 55 years of life I missed the fact that chickens can not only fly, but will also roost in trees if allowed?  We are such complete neophytes at all this farmlet stuff.

I remind her that our banty mother hen Kimber is wild, that almost 3 months ago she was rescued from a defunct farm with her 3 siblings and 7 of her own chicks.  A feral flock.

Then I tell how the siblings immediately flew the coop across the road at Momma Goose’s and have lived successfully in her cedar trees, until two of them recently returned to the coop.  “Momma Goose says it’s not such a bad deal,” I say.  “Free room and feed.  She also says that Kimber will teach her seven babies to fly away, too, if given the chance.”

The two flocks aren't really mixing, but they're not fighting anymore. And even though our new group of five pullets are heavier breeds, they're still young and the biggest is still smaller than Kimber.

Our daughter works quietly, patting the ginger snap crust into the pan.  I know she’s taking all of our food source talk to heart.  She’s even reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma.  Still, maybe I’m babbling.  Maybe there are too many chickens to keep track  of.  I offer to draw a genealogical chicken family tree.

“Mom, it’s okay,” she says.  “Really.”  I conclude she means that this is all very interesting to her, and I should continue the flow of chicken information.

Clipping the first 10 long feathers on one wing is like clipping its fingernails, I explain.  It doesn’t hurt, the feathers grow back the next year, and it lets us let them out of the pen since they can’t fly away.  We’re running out of sluggy, small cabbages and greens to supplement their feed; they need to be able to peck around the pastures during the day.

The refrigerator behind us makes sounds like Kimber — Br-k, br-k br-k — and I imagine the chicks all rushing to it immediately.  I get out the eggs for the pumpkin cheesecake, a box with a fancy full-color label that we bought at the grocery store for a whopping $3.69/dozen because the label said Cage-Free.  When we got home, the Bearded One examined the box more closely.

“They came from Denver,” he said.  We couldn’t decide which was worse, buying local-ish factory farm eggs or supposed cage-free ones shipped 1,500 miles.  Kimber and the rest won’t be laying until well after the New Year when the chicks are weaned, and the daylight lasts longer.  The Bearded One laughs at the notion we get longer days come January.  “More like July,” he says.

A week passes and this eldest daughter is now in Chicago on her first business trip, a surreal notion in itself.  She calls and I tell her it’s freezing here, inside and out.  “We bought a 14 cubic foot chest freezer,” I say, “and the first thing in it was our 30 POUND turkey!”

The freezer cost $400 and is manual defrost, which is a good thing because it uses less electricity than auto-defrost plus the frost build-up actually helps keep the food cold longer in power outages. Here are the first contents, including the turkey and freshly boiled and mashed pumpkin pulp packed in 1 cup baggies.

This is the biggest turkey of our neighbor’s flock, a gargantuan Franken-turkey harvested by Momma Goose, Jonah and the Bearded One on November 11.

I tell her we’re going to buy 25 chicks at a time — birds specifically bred to be “meat birds,”  raise them, harvest them and freeze them right here.  Our daughter is impressed and says she wants to buy chicken from us.

Then she’s maxed out on chickens and wants to talk about love.  She tells me she really really really likes a guy, but it’s not perfect.  He’s moving soon.  His job keeps him away for months at a time.

My long-distance parenting relies heavily on classic movie scenes, so I quote my favorite love movie, Moonstruck.  “Love don’t make things nice – it ruins everything.  It breaks your heart.  It makes things a mess. We aren’t here to make things perfect. The snowflakes are perfect. The stars are perfect.  Not us!  We are here to ruin ourselves and to break our hearts and love the wrong people and die.”

“Thanks, Mom,” she says.

“You’re welcome,” I say.  “You just get him here for Thanksgiving.  We’ll clip his wings.”

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6 responses to “Chickens In The Trees

  1. This issue really got me thinking, about chickens flying the coop, about someday when I too will have an empty nest, and about how love is not perfect.
    I had no idea that chickens could fly high enough to reach the treetops, it was a shock to me. I knew that they had wings that could be clipped, but I never put two and two together.
    I think I may have to make my boys promise that they will NEVER move out! It will get mighty lonely here when they do. I’ve been involved in their daily lives for their entire lives, so what in the world will I have to talk about? 🙂
    And about love…..it does break your heart, but that is one of the greatest blessing that humans can have. Learning to love well comes easily….learning to love wisely is another matter entirely. I’ve been single now for awhile, and at the point where I’m finally enjoying it. I never thought I would get here….but still, someday I will be ready to jump into the dating pool. I’m not a chicken after all!
    Tell the Farmlet family that I said “HI” and , of course, I’m sending all my love to you and the bearded one! ❤

  2. P.S…….lol I hope the freezer is a Whirlpool 😉

  3. any smart chicken would stick around molly, clipped wings or not. 🙂

  4. this chicken with huge wings seems to keep finding her in wonderful places, even outside of my heart and in chicago.

  5. Christine Widman

    Moonstruck…my love and I watch it every December. It is our deepest heart romantic movie.
    Plus the writing is beyond terrific to perfect.
    I say to my love when he solves some dilemma, “You have such a head for knowing.”
    Clipped wings story:
    When the kids were young, we had parakeets. Sweet parakeets.
    Our last parakeet, Blue Boy, had clipped wings. We did not know about clipped wings before him.
    Blue Boy was a nasty bird and didn’t like anyone but our oldest son.
    One summer day Blue Boy was out of his cage for a bit of exercise and unbeknownst to any of us, one of the kitchen windows was open.
    Out the window flew Blue Boy.
    We didn’t know that clipped wings grew back.
    We didn’t exactly call toodle-doo & wave a relieved good-bye to Blue Boy that sunny NW afternoon but deep in our rejected by our pet parakeet hearts we all wanted to.
    I’m hoping that Blue Boy grew bigger wings, his bird spirit happy and wild exploring forever the wide green world of the forest behind our house.
    C

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