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Chicken Frolic

Everyone likes to watch a chicken frolic. I know that. That’s not the problem.

The problem is, in order for the chickens to frolic, I have to surrender my life and free time.

Here’s the thing. We have 17 chickens in a coop inside a fenced orchard.

We also have coyotes and we used to have 18 chickens. Those two facts are related.

When I was a kid, my mom raised chickens, hundreds of them, and they spent their lives locked in a building my dad made from rough sawn lumber he picked up at a sawmill in northern Minnesota. I’m not an expert on chicken psychology, but my guess is they didn’t lead very fulfilling lives. On the plus side, no coyote worries.

Our chickens, on the other hand, spend their days wandering through the orchard, eating bugs and fallen apples, and fertilizing the apple and pear trees. They chase each other around, playing games of chicken tag amongst the wildflowers and hazelnut bushes, and occasionally launch into lumbering flight. In other words, frolicking.

I don’t mind letting them out in the morning, but the chickens don’t go in to roost until dark. That means until the chickens stop frolicking, my day’s work isn’t over.

This is a big deal, people. You know how Mr. Rogers always put on his cardigan and sneakers? Changing his clothes is what made him a nice guy. Leave him in a suit coat and brown shoes and he’d have been a grump. I think my family deserves the sweater version of Mr. Olson as opposed to the work version. My usual outfit is a paint-stained flannel shirt and jeans, with a plier’s holster on one hip and a Leatherman on the other. Functional, but not relaxing. Plus, there’s a finite limit to how many times I want to put on and take off my work boots in a day. As a general rule, if I still have my boots on at 10:00 p.m., no one is going to see much resemblance to Mr. Rogers.

I’ve talked to the chickens about this issue. I left them out one night and the next morning we had one less chicken and a few stray feathers. I realize chickens aren’t that smart, but the dumbest cluck should be able to figure out what happened.

I think the problem is I’ve been too good to them. They haven’t had an opportunity for personal responsibility, so they haven’t grown and developed their independent instincts. It’s kind of sad.

I’ve been doing some research. Since I can close the coop door with one finger, it seems to me that two chickens working together should be able to get the job done. They could bulldoze it shut with their tiny, brainless heads or I could attach a couple feet of twine on the inside to encourage a kind of tug-of-war action. Easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy. Once the door was shut, one chicken could easily lift the hook to latch it. A chicken beak seems like it’s designed for hook lifting. Thirty seconds of work from two or three chickens and I could have my jammies and slippers on whenever I wanted.

If they get the door closed by themselves, they could stay up as late as they wanted. As far as I’m concerned, they could party like thirteen-year-olds at a sleepover.

Come on chickens. Help me, help you. We’ll all be better off.

Copyright 2020 Brent Olson

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