The world according to Rico – From the hen house

I was on a blissful early morning walk with my mom. The breeze was blowing through my lustrous fur and my leash was jingling against my little blue halter. The birds were chirping, Kopchos were in the alley as part of their regular route and a gopher scurried into his underground tunnel.

This time of day is the best because it’s not hot as Hades yet, the sun makes the sky a pretty shade of pink and I can potty until my heart’s content while receiving enthusiastic praise.

Suddenly, however, the morning serenity was broken by a sound so brazen there is no sufficient description. It was a combination of “baaaaaccccckkkk!” and a screaming purr if you can imagine such a thing.

I just rolled my eyes and sighed. The first thought that came to my mind was, “They are such divas.”

The divas are my sisters. There are five of them and they seem to think they rule the world. At least the world that exists in the back yard.

Three don’t necessarily have names. The leader is known as Big Red. And the odd one is simply called Crazy. The neighbors call them “The Girls.” Mom addresses them with, “Hello ladies!”

They are chickens and they reside in a pen that has been carefully and strategically placed within the 50-foot guidelines mandated by something called the city’s municipal code. In other words, they aren’t close to any neighbors’ houses, so they can live in town with us.

So far, they are bigger than me, but I’m not intimidated. There is a sturdy fence and wire mesh between us and I have been warned not to stick my little nose too far into the holes, just in case one of them wants to peck me.

When I first arrived, they were shocked to see me and not really all that welcoming. They loudly cackled in my direction and ruffled their feathers, like they thought I was going to get inside their coop and cause problems. They quickly, however, realized I am way too wimpy to take on such a task and that coop would be the last place on earth into which this delicate soul would venture.

But now, they don’t pay me much mind. They just treat me like I’m an extension of our mom and boy, do they love her! If she comes walking down the deck toward their pen, their strange legs take off faster than their ample bodies can handle because they can’t wait to see what she has in store for them.

She gives them water and pellets in the morning, right when she opens the coop to let them out into the early morning sun. I don’t like being around for that part because they come storming out of their condominium like an angry mob in Baghdad.

However, I love to watch from the sidelines when she brings them bags of produce in the afternoons. They gets loads of peelings and scraps, from cucumbers, green peppers, lettuce heads, watermelon rinds, pineapple hearts cut by Mama and Aunt Leenie. The bags of chicken food come from my dad’s catering business. Mom says they are turning garbage into eggs.

The hens particularly love things that are red – radishes, purple cabbage, tomatoes. They like the color so much the folks threw a red ball into the pen for them to play with and apparently it was true because The Girls frolicked with it so much it went flat in two days.

Then in the evening, as the temperatures start to turn cooler and the hens start to wind down, Mom reaches into a bag and pulls out the grossest stuff. My eyes are wide with wonder every time she rustles up a cup of dried, dead worms. It’s nasty, but I love to watch those wacky birds stare up at her hand and dance with joy as she slowly sprinkles them into the pen. It’s the wildest thing to witness. I’m so glad I don’t have to eat worms and dance for my evening snack. I just have to poop in the yard a couple times a day to get rewarded with mini Milk-Bones made just for puppies.

The one named Crazy looks a little nuts and she is certainly the outcast. I feel bad for her. Mom can throw two dozen cherry tomatoes to them and the only one any of the chickens want is the single fruit Crazy is holding in her beak. She’s pretty tenacious as she goes back and gets another, only to have them steal it away. But eventually, after the other four are busy with what they’ve bullied out of her, she can have the ones that haven’t been touched.

Big Red is exactly just that – she’s really big and she’s really red. She’s the queen of the flock and she’s somehow become the Kim Kardashian of our family. When she lets out a blood-curdling “baaaaccccckkk,” our mom goes running to make sure everything is OK. Turns out, it’s a result of warning shots that had been fired in the past. Big Red screamed for help when a smaller red got her wing caught in the chicken wire and when Crazy’s Araucana counterpart somehow got her head stuck by the bottom of the fencing. Thanks to Big Red’s extreme squawking, our mom was alerted and able to save the day.

So Big Red is very aware she commands attention and works as the spokesperson for the rest of the coop. It’s so irritating to me. One day, I was getting more than full attention from Mom, as I dug around a pepper plant in her garden . . . when Big Red started yelling and of course, we had to immediately respond. So annoying.

That early morning, when we were having our peaceful walk and Mom was telling me how I’d have to be patient while she had to leave a couple of times for work, the “baaaaccccking” started up and we had to go to the coop. All The Girls had joined Big Red in a chorus from the musical, “Hello Dolly,” and we had to stand there watching them roll around in their sand bath area. I’d rather have been lying in Mom’s lap for a belly scratch, but we had been dispatched to linger there, looking at the hens’ shiny feathers while they performed a stupid dance even though it wasn’t time for the worms yet.

And I was extremely disappointed to see our mom pull a “record breaking” number of eggs from the coop. She was delighted with all the blues and browns and for a moment forgot my “record breaking” number of hours without an accident on the living room floor. I’d been the king of the hill, receiving astounding accolades for my ability to control myself – until the chickens produced all that. I’m cute but I can’t lay eggs and no one is that thrilled with anything that comes out of my little Keeshond body.

While I resent their attention-grabbing skills, I have to appreciate the fact they were here before me and I have to respect their seniority. That’s especially true if they ever accidentally get out – if that happens, I’m not sure if I’d be toast or if I’d be a little furball they would want to play with.

Either way, I guess they are my sisters and we’re a family which certainly demonstrates diversity in America.

So from the hen house – bark at ya’ later!




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