Now I’m a chicken farmer …

… and I love it.

Every morning I head out to Cluckingham Palace, home of twenty-two red and black chickens, clad in my chicken boots and carrying whatever the needs of the day might be: empty egg cartons, cracked corn, a bag of layer pellets or a sack of shavings for the house.  In the winter I’ll also need to carry down a bucket or two of water, but for now the duck hose is still connected outside, so I use that.

I’m greeted by all of the chickens that aren’t already settled in a nest for the day’s laying. They surround me, clucking quietly, knowing I’ll toss out a hefty handful of corn—their fave.  I’ve come to recognize a bit of chickenese:  the tiny little whirrs are egg-laying related, an ear-shattering buh-CAWK seems to be an expression of pure happiness, and a rich variety of clucks apparently do for all the rest of their communications. Those I haven’t sorted out yet.

While they are busy pecking at the corn I fill up the pellet and water feeders, collect any eggs that might have already appeared and clean out their house.

Oddly, it’s the housecleaning that is the most soothing of all. I love the chickens and enjoy their various clucks and chirps and whirrs and squawks, and four or five usually join me in the house.  This work requires a five-gallon bucket, a good pair of rubber gloves and a flexible back.  I have all three, thankfully.

The girls, as I think of them, hop on and off their roost bars and scratch around me as I pick up the night’s, um, leavings. By 8:00 am all five nest boxes are usually occupied; the girls who surround me are in something of a holding pattern, waiting for nesting space. Occasionally the urge to lay overrides the niceties of waiting one’s turn, causing two or even three chickens to crowd together in a single box. Apparently this is fine with everyone—they seem perfectly happy to share egg duties with each other.

The bucket is emptied either in the chicken yard, where the girls will make quick work of turning it into mulch, or into the garden where it is coveted fertilizer. Back at the Palace I spread out a bit of clean shavings over any bare spots, open the windows and head back to the house, having spent a peaceful and renewing half hour with the girls.

I’ve done this every day since the chickens came over here to live, except when I was on vacation recently. I was sure I was going to enjoy that break in my routine, but as it turned out, I missed it.

Now isn’t that strange? Missing a thirty minute poo-cleaning session every morning, rain, shine, cold, hot, sick, well? I’d don’t really understand this myself, but I suspect this work is making more than my back flexible. The simplicity of chicken life is seeping into my soul.

Well, whatever is happening out there I’m not going to worry about it … unless I begin buh-CAWKing for the pure joy of it.

And maybe I won’t worry about that, either.

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