I have not named all the chickens at Spirit Hill Farm. I did not come here a chicken lover exactly. I mean, I like chicken sandwiches, but I never asked Santa for a chicken of my own.
Why? I wanted a horse.
But the six chickens that live here are starting to grow on me. There’s the white one who escapes. My brother, a farmer in Maine, told me she’s a “jumpah” when I sent her picture to him. I named her The Notorious RBG because nothing seems to hold her back.
There’s Old Chicken. She black and white and sits in the coop an hour longer every morning than the other chickens do at breakfast time. I get the feeling she needs to think about moving a lot before anything actually happens.
Then there’s Squatting Chicken. I’ll put her picture here so I don’t have to describe her. Every so often she does this thing where she bends at the knees or whatever that joint is called on chickens and opens her wings a little–so she looks like she’s wearing a suit coat with padded shoulders.
The woman who used to take care of the chickens told me this means Squatting Chicken wants me to pick her up.
I tried this a few weeks ago, tried picking her up when she squatted, and it was like a really awkward first kiss. One of us had no idea what she was doing. There is just so much chicken to a chicken–those wings, those feet, that head! I didn’t really know how to hold one with any grace or confidence, and so our embrace (or struggle or whatever you want to call it) was short.
Now I just bend down and give her what I hope is a nice chicken patting session when she squats. I stroke her as I would a cat, carefully, tenderly, and with a tiny bit of fear. Are you going to run now? How about now? Do you hate this? Are you going to turn on me and claw my eyes out?
Remember, I am a farmer-in-training. I came here only knowing how to eat a chicken.
Now I know how to pat one.