Well, I got some chickens. I do not live in the country, I don’t have a lot of land, and I never thought in my entire life that I would ever, EVER, own chickens. But here I am, with chickens. I guess you should never say never right? I’m still not really sure how it happened. One minute I’m a happy city dweller, the next I’m an urban farmer. It was my wife Rachel, I believe, that had said something about keeping backyard chickens after reading an article in Sunset or some other pseudo trendy magazine, and then I think I found an article about the manliness and heritage of keeping them. (I’m a sucker for that kind of stuff) Either way, I now have three.
We both decided to build a chicken coop instead of getting each other some cheesy gift for our fourth wedding anniversary and shortly after that construction on our coop started in early July. Off I went to the Home Depot to get some wood, screws and other materials and off Rachel went to a feed store off of 4th street to get us three little baby chicks. We were doing this. As I came home with a collection of 2x4s, 4x4s, and plywood strapped to the roof rack of my old Volvo, my wife arrived home with a small, brown paper bag. “What’s in the bag?” I said as she was getting out of her car. “Baby chicks!” she replied with equal parts triumphant enthusiasm and wavering confidence. “Really?” I said, “they just give them to you in a brown paper bag?” “Apparently.” she replied, as perplexed as I was. I pondered the irony that newly hatched baby chicks come in the same plain brown paper bag that they leave the butcher shop in. But you know what? Now that I think about it, how else would they come? After much thought, and with many names thrown out such as ‘Laura Egg-ls Wilder’, ‘Goldie Hen’, and further painful amalgamations, we decided on Coco, Zelda, and Isadora; Chanel, Fitzgerald, and Duncan respectively. (Famous flappers, get it?!?!) I am currently in the process of making Isadora a long flowing scarf…
So now we had our chicks. They were happily growing in our guest bathroom’s bathtub under a 125-watt heat lamp. Which meant I had to get started on the coop. Being a modern American, or perhaps just being a modern man, I have this sickness where I take a simple problem, (build a small and functional backyard chicken coop) and design an overly complex solution to said problem, (Design New Mexico’s own chicken Taj Mahaal.) And damned if I don’t have the nicest chicken coop in the greater Mesa Antigua neighborhood, albeit the only chicken coop in our neighborhood.
Now that the chicks were happily growing into teenage chickendome in our bathtub, and the coop-mahaal ready to go, the only thing left to worry about was our dogs, Annie and Enzo. Like most of you, our dogs are an extension of our family. We love them to death. Annie is part Border terrier, part whatever else. And Enzo is, well, we have no Idea what he is. “A fourth generation Mutt,” is what I call him. He’s a 60lb sack of cuddles. Even our vet is stumped, every time we see her she says, “I just have no idea.” These two have been baffled since they day the chicks arrived. Normally sweet and good-natured, the arrival of the chicks flipped some sort of primeval switch in their brains. They spent hours pining at the bathroom door, pleading for “just one taste”. Infatuated with the noises coming from beyond the void. They would be at the bathroom door when I left for work and be at the bathroom door when I returned. Never ceasing to monitor the unwanted, and probably tasty, interlopers in their home.
One night we were having a fire in our backyard fire pit, about one to two weeks into our chicken adventure. (At this point the chicks were still in the towel-and-newspaper lined bathtub) We heard a high-pitched shriek coming from the other side of the yard. A shriek that was reminiscent of how a baby chick might sound if an Enzo had one in his mouth. We both bolted up from our chairs and ran to investigate. Our fears had been confirmed. Here was Enzo, ears back with a look of shame and guilt on his face, a foot or two in front of him lying on the grass was our beloved Coco. Understandably my wife and I were very upset, we had not closed the bathroom door quite enough and Enzo, being the opportunist that he is, saw his chance and took it. Now we had a lifeless little chick. I scooped her mangled body up in my hands and smoothed her feathers. “Chirp” we heard the little chick say. We were stunned, couldn’t believe it, this chirp soon found its way to a full-blown wail. The poor little chick was dazed but totally fine. Coco is the luckiest bird alive.
About a week later I got a knock on the door and answered to find my neighbor, Cindy with something wrapped up in a towel, held tightly to her chest. I immediately feared the worst. The look on Cindy’s face was one of gravity. “I found her in our backyard,” she said “the cat had her.” Coco had gotten out of the coup somehow and over the wall into our neighbors yard. How she did this at 4 weeks old I have not a clue. Our neighbors have 3 LARGE dogs and two very mischievous cats. I don’t think I would have survived jumping the wall. I took the towel and unwrapped it expecting a tragedy. As I peeled back the top layer of towel Coco’s head popped out and she was looking around. After a thorough examination we realized that Coco was unharmed. Luckiest. Bird. Ever.
I love my little lady lumps. (That’s what I call the chickens) If you were ever thinking about getting a coup and some chickens here is my advice, DO IT. They are sort of hilarious and they are a ton of fun. They are low maintenance, and they actually earn their keep with eggs. They produce garden compost and are prolific bug hunters. Albuquerque is really very progressive in the area of backyard livestock; most cities don’t allow it at all. Take advantage of it and have a chicken adventure!