Yesterday I bought a magazine solely because it had a chicken on the cover. I justified the purchase to myself by noting that it had articles on herbs, solar power, and compost, but the real reason I bought it — the only reason I bought it — was for the feature article on chickens. I love chickens; it is my dream someday to have chickens of my own.
According to family lore, my fascination with chickens goes pretty far back. Somewhere around the tender age of three, I spent an entire Sunday School program looking toward the top of my head rather than singing the songs I had practiced in the car for weeks. When asked by my grandmother why I didn’t sing during the program, I replied, “I couldn’t sing, Grandma. I had a chicken on my head.” I have no personal recollection of this incident, but it seems so perfectly reasonable to me that I don’t doubt it happened just as they say it did.
We had a variety of birds when I was growing up, zebra finches, parakeets, and a cockatiel. We even raised and released a few baby robins that the cats dragged in. When I was old enough to get a job, I found employment at a wonderful mom-and-pop pet store that specialized in tropical fish and hand-raised tropical birds. All this avicultural experience certainly solidified my love of bird folk, but I’m still not sure where the particular enthusiasm for chickens came from.
Perhaps a genetic component is involved: another family story involves chickens and my paternal grandmother (not the one who asked me about singing). She and my grandfather were to be married at her parents’ home on the family farm, but when the wedding party arrived for the event, she was out feeding the chickens. She came in, tidied herself up, and proceeded to marry my grandfather. Maybe she, too, was irrationally fond of chickens, or maybe she was just nervous and found comfort in their familiar company.
I can’t ask her about this because she has been gone for many years, but I do remember that to my eyes she became very bird-like in her appearance and manner at the end of her life. I like to think that she wouldn’t have asked me about my singing had she been at that Sunday School program when I was three — she would have seen the chicken, too, and would have asked me about it instead.