Now comes word that I have the same chickens as Martha Stewart.
I am trying to deal with this news.
Identity-wise, it's hard enough being a person with chickens -- even though chickens are supposedly getting popular. This according to reports about suburban dwellers discovering how very cool it is to wake up to the gift of eggs. Frankly, I'm skeptical about this news coverage. I suspect the media are hopping on the bandwagon reporting this because they hardly ever get to talk about chickens, and "chicken" is such a funny word to say and write and consider.
Anyway, the point is, when you become a person with chickens you inevitably have to look into the mirror one day and say, "Holy smokes. I am a person with chickens."
I live on a farm, so I have an excuse. Plus, I have two little kids. What child is not drawn to the cheeping and chirping of tiny yellow chicks, also known adorably as "peeps," that they can hold in their tiny hands and bop around in their dollhouses and put wee little blankets on and insist that they go to sleep? (Our poor peeps.)
We had six when we started. One of the most important lessons I learned, and I pass this on to anyone considering the chicken life, is that you should not start your chicken life in winter. It's too cold out for peeps. This means you cannot keep those chickens outside. No, you cannot. So you put them in a box in your kitchen and attach a heat lamp on top. Then one day you look into the mirror and say, "Good loving Lord! I am a person with chickens in my kitchen."
Our peeps did fine until one of them turned into a rooster and started attacking my 4-year-old. This was not subtle. That monster would tear after her and peck her ankles until she nearly turned phobic against all fowl. I got rid of the rooster. I gave it to a friend who had chickens but no children to peck at, and we continued into spring and summer with Penelope, Magenta, Mary, StarSprinkle and Birthday, all hens, all reasonably well-behaved and all finally outside, where we built them a little pen to keep them from the evil teeth of raccoons.
A storm blew the pen door open one night, and, don't you know, all those hens got eaten. Nothing left of those chickens at all in the morning, except Magenta's leg. This is a sad fact of farm life.
I found out you can order chickens in the mail. I found a Web site listing dozens of breeds, as I set out to help my family get over our chicken tragedy. And so I ordered a box full of araucana peeps, because, according to the Web site, they eventually lay blue and green eggs. "Cool!" I thought. "What fun for Easter!"
"Um, I have a box of chickens up here for you," the woman who runs our post office said on the phone one day. I ran up to get them, and we had a great time sitting on our front patio as the peeps danced all over our legs. The phone rang again. It was one of my city friends, arguably the most anti-chicken person in my life. She doesn't have a dog nor a cat nor a goldfish at her house. She asked me what the little chirping sounds were. I felt busted. Finally, I told her. To promote the idea, I told her about the blue and green eggs. "Isn't that cool?"
"Are those araucanas?" she said.
Huh? How in the world would this anti-chicken woman be able to guess the breed of my new peeps?
"That's the kind of chickens Martha Stewart has!" she said. And then she told me about Martha's line of paints, or maybe sheets, all this stuff named and inspired by the color of her araucana eggs.
"But -- " I said, wondering where to begin. "I'm not her kind of chicken person!" (What did that mean?) "I'm just a regular chicken person!" (Was that a good thing?) "Look, I did not get these chickens because Martha has them. I got them before."
It was like showing up at a party and discovering you had the same hair as Paris Hilton -- only, no, not like that at all.
I didn't like having the same chickens as Martha Stewart. I wanted my own darn chickens. I did a little research to confirm the Martha connection, and found out that Martha named her chicken coop "Palais de Poulet," and inside she has a panoply of nests blanketed with a bedding of Canadian wood shavings. Very impressive. Achingly impressive. Ever since, I've felt sorry for my chickens, thinking they'd rather live at Martha's.
Identity-wise, it's confusing being a person with Martha Stewart's chickens, and I'm not finished sorting myself out. The other day I was at the university where I teach, and somehow my chicken life slipped out to a person I would describe as neither anti- nor pro-chicken but more just the type to say "Eww." She had that icky-chicken look, and I found myself doing the unforgivable.
"Oh, but they're lovely chickens!" I said, proudly. "They're the same kind that Martha Stewart has!"
Jeanne Marie Laskas's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.