My chicken math adds up to ‘no’
It’s Easter week, and if you’re a secular humanist hippie Pagan (guilty), you’re more likely thinking Easter bunnies and colored eggs than pondering the spectacular display of human cruelty that marks this holiday. (Sure, the story ends well, but excuse me — “Good Friday”? Talk about an inappropriate name. It should be called “Really Spectacularly Horrible Vicious Cruel Friday,” if you ask me.)
Being of the “imagine no religion” camp, for me, this time of year means pastel-colored everything, bunnies, baby chicks and handfuls of Cadbury Mini-eggs (also known as “crack”). While some ponder the Christian mysteries this time of year, I ponder the secular humanist hippie Pagan mysteries: Peeps. They’re truly disgusting, particularly the crunch of sugar between your teeth, and yet, entirely irresistible.
Mr. Peep, shut up and get in my mouth!
This year, however, it’s not Peeps I’m pondering, but peeps: the kind that emanate from huddles of cute, fluffy little chicks at the feed store when I go restock on alfalfa pellets and horse supplements.
(Note to genetic engineers: Could you design a horse that eats money directly? Just cut out the middle man, and it’d save me all those trips to the feed store. And if the horse can also poop money, that would be a fabulous bonus.)
So there I was, pushing my cart full of horse feed, and right in the center aisle, there they were: tiny peeping chicks huddled under heat lamps and pecking at cute little round food trays, and hopping around and flapping their teeny tiny wings, and I went from zero to full-on cuteness-overload-squeee mode in less than five seconds. If I were a cartoon, my hands would’ve been clasped under my jaw, with tiny red hearts bursting from my eyes like confetti.
My Adorb-O-Meter went off the chart.
Total cuteness overload.
I WANT those chicks.
“Yes, yes, Heart, I know you want them,” replied Brain, “But all cuteness aside, they’re still essentially pets that must be cared for and, in particular, fretted over, and you know what a neurotic, hovering mess you become over anything you’re responsible for. You’ll be awake in the middle of the night worrying about whether the chicks are too cold, or too hot, or bored, or lonely, and you’ll be fighting the urge to run to the computer to search for ‘chicken toys’ at 3 a.m. Come on. You know how you are.”
(Insert image of pouting Heart here.)
Brain was right. Whether it’s kids or cats or evil homicidal lesbian bunnies (and don’t even get me started on the horse, because I want a web cam in his paddock so I never have to stop looking at him… I’d bring him home and let him sleep on my bed if my unreasonable husband would just stop objecting), I’m hard-wired to fret and fuss over it, often far beyond the tolerance point. Just ask my kids. The only difference between “mother” and “smother” is an “s,” you know. SMother. You can call me “SMom” for short.
And so, after indulging in some Instagram photos, I forced myself to push my cart onward, as if an invisible sword was pointed into my back forcing me forward, right through the checkout and to the car — without a cardboard carrier full of peeping squeeeful cuteness.
Adulting is so hard.
And that should be the end of this little story, right? Oh come on, you know me better than that. I’m still thinking about those chicks. My innovative little mind is ticking off all the justifications for having backyard chickens:
~ The obvious: fresh organic eggs, from chickens living a happy little life in my back yard.
~ Excellent fertilizer for all the vegetables I don’t grow.
~ A great pesticide-free way of eliminating the legions of snails eating their way through my tender flowers, and ditto for the grasshoppers that jump up from nowhere and freak me out, and also moths, because I just don’t like them, and yes, it’s a phobia, and yes, not liking moths is a Pagan party foul, and no it doesn’t make any sense, but you’ll never convince me that if they had teeth, they wouldn’t rip your jugular vein out. That’s why they fly into your face: sheer bloodlust. It’s not about ability, it’s about intention, and they are wannabe-vampires, I tell you.
Then there were the negatives:
~ Chickens stink. Period. (Well, sure — cat poop. Touché. Hey, genetic engineers: Please also design cats that poop lavender potpourri.)
~ I’d have to grow vegetables so I’d have somewhere to put all the chicken poop, and there is too much shade to grow anything so I’d:
~ Have to tear out trees to grow vegetables. And I like trees. And shade. And you can buy tomatoes at the farmer’s market, but you can’t buy shade.
~ Given the cost of the henhouse and feed, it’s cheaper to buy eggs — even the most expensive organic, free-range type.
~ Chickens are still pets that must be cared for and obsessively worried about when I go on vacation. I need more worry and stress like I need to gain 10 pounds.
~ And (worst of all, I discovered after quizzing some chicken-loving friends)… chickens outlive their laying years. By a lot. So, you can either keep them as pets or (shudder) eat them.
Well, I don’t know about you, but I can’t eat something I’ve befriended and named, that has learned to trust me. That would be the ultimate betrayal. And no, I’m not a vegetarian, and yes, I fully acknowledge the utter hypocrisy of lulling myself into temporarily believing that meat comes from Styrofoam trays at the grocery store and not living sentient beings. But if I was the type of person who worried about making sense, I wouldn’t be afraid of moths, would I. Think of another argument. As for chickens as pets… I’d rather have pets that you can cuddle in the recliner or saddle up and ride.
All in all… it adds up to “no chickens.”
But you see what this is, right? A pathetically thinly-veiled plea for a “checkmate” (Chickmate! Ha!) to my chicken logic that will convince me that the benefits of backyard chickens outweigh the costs. (Hint: If you tell me that you’ll adopt the chickens if it doesn’t work out, consider the scales tipped.)