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Free range

Agriculture.com Staff 10/17/2008 @ 7:23am

I'm a little concerned about our chickens.

They're all okay -- no coyote damage or the like, but I'm afraid they may be getting a little too big for their drumsticks, so to speak.

They used to be happy in their little chickenwire yard, especially after some critter tried to dig through and lunch on them. I could feel a real sense of appreciation for my efforts to protect them, perhaps even a bond between us. I liked the eggs and they liked the way I kept wild animals from eating them.

But then things started to go downhill. First, an artist we know took some pictures of the more photogenic members of the flock and starting using their images in her work. I think that was a mistake. It wasn't long before the chickens were strolling around their coop in dark glasses, discussing whether they should get an agent. Now, it wasn't really jealousy on my part, but let's face it -- no one wanted to make an art project out of me.

But I didn't hold a grudge. Heck, I even started letting them out of their pen during the day. I was trying to improve the quality of their eggs by adding some bugs and dandelions to their diet, but it wasn't long before they started treating me like a doorman. It was hard to take. I mean, they're chickens -- without me they wouldn't even know what a door was. For the first few weeks, they just poked their heads out and then nervously scurried back to their perch at any sign of danger. They were always careful to be back inside before dark. They kept getting more and more bold, but their biggest step forward happened when our daughter and son-in-law were in Ethiopia. While they were gone, we took care of their two dogs, a Newfoundland and a Black Lab, about 250 pounds of coyote intimidation. We got pretty used to not shutting the door to the coop when the sun went down.

That was probably another mistake -- bigger than the first. As long as the chickens lived in continual fear for their lives, they cranked out the eggs and did whatever they could to keep me happy, but now…now everything's different.

Now, man, now things are just out of control. I looked up from breakfast this morning and saw half a dozen chickens strolling up the driveway. Maybe they'd just gone into town for breakfast, but it looked to me like one was carrying a half-empty six pack and one straggler was smoking a cigar. I'm pretty sure they were just getting home from a night on the town.

It gets worse. Strange roosters have been calling day and night. They've stopped eating regular chicken feed and are demanding low-fat, organic, designer chicken feed instead. Yesterday as one strolled by, I swear it flashed a nose ring and tattoo.

And you know, that's okay. But the first time I see a cell phone, those chickens are out of here.

I'll get ducks instead. No ego with a duck.

Copyright 2008 Brent Olson

I'm a little concerned about our chickens.

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