Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Living with Chickens

One week ago, I was still in Seattle rushing through the house trying to pack everything I could imagine I’d need for a month and a half in Maine. I had to remind myself over and over that I was going to Maine—not to the moon—and that if I forgot a toothbrush or needed extra underwear, I could buy it.

Now I’m sitting here, in Maine, watching chickens roam the yard at the little place where I’m house-sitting for a sail maker, who’s off in Nantucket making sails for what I imagine must be a big, fancy boat.

One week in, I’ve determined I definitely don’t know enough about chickens to have this whole chicken-tending thing under control. First, I don’t know what to do with the eggs. I don’t know which are good and which are bad, but the fact that I’m leaving them all out in the coop due to my indecision is probably not the right thing. Currently, there is a big pile of eggs in the coop, and I’m not sure if I should just put them all in the trash. There are way too many of them to eat, and since I don’t know if they are good, I’m not about to try them anyway.

I also haven’t been any good at shooing the chickens off the eggs, which some of the hens have been sitting on. Nathanial says he doesn’t need any more chicks, but when I try to gently prod the hens off the eggs, they don’t budge. The truth is, I don’t think Nathanial expects all that much. All he said I need to do is open the door in the morning and close it in the evening, so I think all I really need to do is make sure that the same number of chickens—give or take—is here when I leave. Nathanial, the sail maker, said he had about a dozen chickens, but I have now counted at least 14 or 15 of them. Counting them is difficult because by the time I count the three on my left, they have moved around to my right, and then I get confused and have to start counting again. When I try to count them in the coop at night—shining a flashlight at each one, which I am sure they don’t enjoy—it’s also difficult because they huddle up, or at least some of them do, and it’s hard to tell sometimes if a big ball of feathers is one bird or two.

I have also determined that chicken coops are rather dirty, poopy places where I would prefer not to hang out; however, watching the chickens in the yard can be highly entertaining. Watching them run is the most fun. They will be pecking at the dirt for I have no idea what, and then suddenly, they will do their very best chicken sprint, which makes them look like very large-breasted women running. Sometimes they’re being chased by the rooster, who struts around looking very pleased with himself, but sometimes they just run across the field with no obvious provocation. Then, just as quickly as they took off, they stop and start pecking again.

Before leaving Seattle, I was having a very hard time imagining I was actually going to get here. I’ve rarely left Seattle since my arrival a dozen years ago (except for other Pacific NW destinations), and I had not been on a solo trip in years—making me feel far removed from the gal I was in my twenties, carelessly crisscrossing New England and beyond in a little Ford Escort.

Despite my lack of imagination, Brian dropped me at the airport; the plane took off, and several hours later it landed in Boston. I retrieved my luggage, got the bus to the T, and got the T to Government Center, where I trudged up the stairs to street-level finally realizing that I had more than enough stuff with me for a month and a half in Maine. Out on the street smiling and sweaty, I asked a friendly police officer on a motorcycle for directions, and about 30 minutes later I was driving a rental car out of a garage in Boston and heading for Maine.

More on my mission in Maine, coming soon . . .

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