counting your chickens

coffee chicken I can hear the chickens again.

It is the season of open windows. Not many houses in the Northwest have central air – summer is when we can hear our neighbours, and their music, and their kids, and their animals.

Mostly, the chicken sounds are pretty subtle. City code limits the number of chickens per household and prohibits roosters. Every now and then there is a great racket – laying an egg is cause for celebration among the hens, and the one who dropped it wants everyone to know.

Today? Someone* just laid an egg.

A few years ago, I was on the phone with my mother when the same thing happened. We were talking about domestic animals in general when I mentioned the chickens next door and the rooster up the street.  (Yes, the prohibited rooster).

(That sounds like the name of a band: Prohibited Rooster.)

This prompted Mum to tell a Nana and Pop story. I love Nana and Pop stories.

When my mother was a girl, the feed and hardware store advertised a special – buy chicken feed, and you’d get 10 free chicks. Mum and her five brothers pestered on and on, with every argument you can imagine, until – you guessed it – Nana and Pop EACH came home with ten chicks.

It didn’t take long to figure out that they had 19 roosters and only one hen – poor henny…

Of course, the feed store knew the sex of the chicks – the promotion was how they got rid of the extra roosters. Nana and Pop had been hoping for hens to lay eggs to feed their own brood of children.

As the chicks grew, Nana had to go back to buy more feed. In her clear Irish brogue, she made a point of telling the folks at the store, “I’m sure it’s a mistake: you gave me only ONE HEN.” I don’t think they coughed up any more hens for Nana.

When the roosters started to crow, Nana wasted no time. “Off with their heads.”

“Did you eat them?” I asked. “Of course,” my mother said, “they were like young fryers. Tasty.”

I don’t mind the sound of the chickens clucking next door. They are a nice homey addition to the general ambiance. That rooster though? Sometimes I think about taking a note from my Nana’s book.


*Not the someone in this cellphone snap. This is a chicken roaming around at Hilo Coffee Mill on Hawaii Island. That’s a coffee bush in the background.


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