Saturday, July 2, 2011

Why I Married a Chicken


   When I introduce visitors   to my wife Olive, most of them pretend not to notice that she's a chicken , and are too polite to ask  why   I married outside my species.  So let me explain.            
                    First of all:  our relationship is not about sex.  Get that out of your mind.   Ours is a marriage of   mutual benefits and general convenience.   Of course it is more convenient for Olive than for me, and unfortunately, eggs are not one of the  benefits.   Hens, like other women,  are born with  a limited number of ovaries to let down in a life tIme -  around three hundred and fifty for a hen  - but Olive stopped laying long before reaching that limit, no doubt as a result of her abuse by the other chickens.

    I don't know if it was the roosters or the hens who ganged up on her,  but   one morning during the first year of the flock,   I   found her lying in a corner of the coop, beaten nearly flat.
  She is a Dominker, which is a breed common in the nineteenth century, before Asian varieties were bred into the European stock, and different enough in feathering     and comb that the other   chickens   discriminate, to say the least.  Her several brother Domikers had already been driven by the other roosters to the periphery of the flock, where they have not survived.
    I carried  her up to the house and set her in a box on the floor by the chair where I write.
         I put her food in a bowl on the kitchen floor along side the dog dishes, but each evening at roosting time she  insisted on climbing up over my lap to spend the night on the back of my chair,  The gallon can of Olive Oil  sits on the shelf  behind her.  And so, she became Olive.

     After a week or two,   I tried to  reintroduce her into the chicken coop....but the hens immediately attacked her, so I brought her back to the house.
          And  when I put her out among the ranging hens, she  would immediately fly at them in  like a hopped up rooster in a cock fight.  

        She had less of an aversion to the roosters, and would occasionally offer herself to one of the favorites I sometimes allowed into the house.
  She  also started crowing occasionally......never the complete phrasing, but two thirds of it, which is more than I have ever heard from the other hens.
         My mother used to say, "Whistling girls and crowing hens, always come to some bad end." But there isn't much I could do about it.
      The crowing behavior first began when I would leave the house.... or even the room. 
           She would also crow sometimes when I sang.  This first occurred   a couple of years ago when I began doing my weekly video weather report for the Tiny Town Times.  She was usually sitting on the back of my chair when I recorded the sitting down portion of the video, so I incorporated her in it, as Olive the Weather Hen. 
           I guess that was a good move.  Olive became  famous, with more fans than  me  in my role as  Davey Weathercock,  and she  aroused more interest than the  substance of my weather comentery.
         For a while ,  before the economic crash, we made a  weekly salary which kept us  in chicken feed and wine, for which Olive has developed a taste.   We entertained a number of eminent Olive seeking pilgrims. 

   They don't love her any better than I do.  Olive is an indiscriminate, serial pooper, but a fussy housekeeper otherwise, and spends hours a day poking around, examining small objects and specks of nothing much, and generally policing  the floor.  She even caught a mouse in here once, and always grumbles when one is heard gnawing in the walls or when one flits across the floor. Or imagines that she does. We share meals and maybe a nip of wine.  When I write, she is at my feet or at my head.  Her influence on my writing is obvious.

       Waking mornings, we talk for a while  her language mostly, between my bed and her roost.  If I don't get up soon enough, she will come off her  roost, waddle across the room and fly up onto my stomach.

Then I have about five minutes to roll out and get her some breakfast (chopped cabbage usually)  and if I don't, she takes her morning dump on me.
     Sure I  have some cause for resentment,and I am quite tied down here by my obligations to her,  but it is all by choice and I would have only my own choices to blame.  I could have eaten her long ago,   She sheds feathers on a regular schedule and I collect them in a bread bag.  I already have enough to make the illusion of a replacement Olive, but of course, a bag of feathers, or even a whistling girl could never replace Olive.