BY CHIZU OMORI
Yes, my chickens. I have a small flock in my backyard in Seattle. They are happily scratching around, eating feed and grass and greens like our spinach, chard, bok choy. Amazingly, they have endeared themselves to us so thoroughly we spend quite a bit of time tending and watching them. They are Miranda, Portia, Henrietta and Giulietta, all grand fowl.
A couple of years ago, I learned that Seattle allows a household to have a few – no roosters, but hens only. The thought of my own backyard flock persisted in my mind. As a friend says, you can take the girl out of the farm, but you can’t take the farm out of the girl. And as an old farm girl, this spring I succumbed and acquired four baby chicks, two Rhode Island Reds, and two Buff Orpingtons. I went to The Grange in Issaquah and I was astonished to see maybe 12 different kinds of baby chickens for sale. But I stuck to old fashioned barnyard varieties.
We put them in a small cage in the basement, warmed by an electric light bulb, and got them going with baby feed. We could hear them peep-peep-peeping from upstairs. They grew like weeds, so several weeks later, we moved them into a coop built by some friends. We also had a “chicken tractor” constructed out of PCV pipe and chicken wire. This is a portable cage with no bottom that can be moved around in the upper area under our fruit trees.
Into this idyllic scene a villain appeared in the form of the neighbor’s corgi. One day, I heard huge squawking. I looked out my dining room window to see Miranda flying around in the front yard, chased by the corgi. I ran out of the house but by then both had disappeared. Up by the tractor, we found Henrietta wandering around, the others nowhere to be found. Horrors! Giulietta lay dead near a raised bed of lettuce. A clue of a bunch of tail feathers helped us locate Portia who had wedged herself behind a rhododendron. Rescuing her, we started looking for Miranda. The whole neighborhood got involved, looking under bushes and hedges. Well, after a couple of hours, she appeared on the sidewalk tentatively coming our way, looking just fine. We herded her into the coop where we now had most of our little flock together again.
We shed a few tears for Giulietta and buried her under the cherry tree. We now anchor down the tractor with pins and have scolded our neighbor for allowing her dog to run wild. Contrite, she now leashes her dog and she came by a week or so later with a new white chicken in a paper bag. Now, we had a new Giulietta.
No eggs yet. This has become a joke around here and threats of a stewpot seem to have no effect on our hens. They go about their business with cheery vigor, providing respite from the day’s routine. In reality, the flock has been a wonderful addition to our household. My husband, who was slowed down by a stroke last year, has found them to be very calming and delightful company. I call it chicken therapy. They have added a genuine touch of nature to our city life.