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Peeps aren't chicken about speaking their (small) minds

April 16, 2013

It’s that time of year again. The redbuds are flowering, the sun is warming the earth and the postal employees across this great land of ours are being driven out of their gourds by the deafening chirp of of baby chickens.

(We have a basement full of baby chicks at the moment, and I am writing about them because when they are around it is difficult to focus on anything else.)

It might come as a surprise to some people that baby chickens known as “peeps” are shipped through the U.S. Postal Service, and generally arrive at the P.O. loading dock at 4:30 in the morning before anyone has had any coffee, and the peeps are VERY LOUD (they don’t call them peeps for no reason) and so you can imagine the general effect this earsplitting cardboard box has on everyone in the building.

For some reason, women love chickens. I don’t know why that is. If a woman married a man who was terribly messy, didn’t listen and was a poor conversationalist, the divorce papers would arrive in express mail. But with chickens they are more forgiving.

Theoretically, it should be men who like chickens: Chickens provide a surplus amount of product for minimal investment in commitment. Three or four hens provide a small family with all the eggs they would ever need, and all they require in exchange is water and a couple of handfuls of scratch. Meat birds take a little more effort, but they are literally here and gone in six weeks.

Meat chickens grow at a rate of speed normally associated with Carrie Fisher. Where a steer might take a year and a half or more to get to market weight, chickens grow before your very eyes. There is no time to form friendships, because they have been bred to be eating and growing machines.

The trade-off is that meat chickens make political bloggers seem like astrophysicists. Keep in mind, the average laying hen isn’t exactly Marie Curie. But a meat chicken will be walking around and suddenly fall down for no other reason than, apparently‚ the brain-leg neural circuit has simply malfunctioned.

But the brain-mouth hardwiring never fails. They will holler beyond belief, especially if they are dissatisfied about something — temperature, food quality, what have you — as complainers go, they make Leona Helmsley seem like Job.

Did I mention we have two cats, who are taking all this in?
We have Juliet, the day-shift kitty who sits underneath an Adirondack chair while the sun shines and nails morning doves as they pick at seeds from underneath the bird feeder.

Then we have Geena the night-shift kitty, who clocks in about 7 when she comes up from the basement and sends Juliet into the shadows for the evening (the two can’t stand each other). Matter of fact, they only thing they can agree on is that Chicks Must Die. Unfortunately for them, when teamwork might be beneficial to both, they can’t get on the same page.

It’s Geena, mostly, who will wind up staring at the chicks through the protective wire. She has trouble understanding why we would bring such trash into our home. But she understands at some level that we want them here, so she is reluctant to initiate an overt attack.

The frustration is evident. We arrive in the basement in the morning to a tornado-like wreck of glass and other flotsam and jetsam that she’s knocked off of high places, an apparent barroom-like tirade that is the cat equivalent of snapping a pool cue over the knee and wiping out the top-shelf liquor.

We live with this. It is what we do. But sometimes I do wish for goldfish.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 6997, or via email at timr@herald-mail.com.

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