Why Did the Chicken Coop Cross The Road*

*(new headline courtesy of Con von Hoffman)

I drove in the driveway last night at 8:30, returning from North Carolina, and there, in the darkness, was a chicken coop.

The coop had been across the street in Cousin Pete’s backyard for the last 40 years, carried there by several strong men with cross timbers. I remember because I helped carry it from here to there and disaster struck me when we arrived across the street and my foot plunged through the ground into a nest of ground wasps. There, the coop stood, on the other side of the Chatfield compound, chickenless, for four decades, the preferred crash pad for many a teenager who wanted some privacy and was willing to sleep on the mattress that is still crammed inside.

Before the migration from here to there and back again there were actually chickens living in the chicken coop. My father wouldn’t eat chicken (nor fish) as a result of being tasked with the chicken duties as boy in World War II when rationing made things like chicken coops and Victory Gardens a fact of life in rural America (which Cape Cod definitely was until the 1960s). Maybe it was the head chopping, feather plucking, gizzard gutting mess that turned him off, all I know is the man was not a chicken eater.

I would like to add chickens to my many diversions. I am jealous of my colleague Mike Etherington,who introduced egg-layers into his English backyard this summer with risible results. However, it is simple for me to say I want to get into poultry husbandry as I am traveling more than half of the time and would abandon my wife to the task of cleaning the coop and defending it against marauding critters and raptors.

My favorite part of the county fair is the chicken shed, where the different breeds are on display — about as many as there are dogs in the AKC list. I think I would raise the New England classic, the Rhode Island Red.

Reality? I will re-roof and re-shingle and my daughter will claim it as her boudoir next summer.

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