I had a dream about chickens in my garden.
It was early in the morning I was running in slow motion barefoot in a beautiful white gossamer gown. I was carrying a basket made of silk ribbons. I bent down, backlit by the sun. I was collecting eggs from my snow-white chickens.
My garden was perfect, full and green from all the lovely manure that my snow-white chickens produced from eating every single slug and snail in my yard.
I carried my eggs to my back porch. The chickens were running behind me. They wanted to cuddle against my feet.
I placed my basket on the porch, picked up one of my chickens and held it against my face. My snow-white chicken nuzzled me. She smelled like lavender.
My kids and I had bought an incubator for my son’s first grade teacher. She really wanted the kids to learn about the stages of embryonic development and I was stupid enough to volunteer for the chicken-hatching job. That’s another story altogether. I’m going to call it “The Horrors of Hatching”
Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of gardening with chickens but my reality was different than my dream.
After the chicken hatched and the lesson was over, there was that question of what to do with the chicken. So I stepped up—driven forward by the pleading look in my 7-year-old’s eyes.
I wasn’t even sure if it was my voice I heard saying the words, “I’ll take it.” Then I glanced at my husband. He was rolling his eyes and saying, “Oh great, another project.” Oops, it was me.
My son’s class had named her Missy Peeps. She was the only one out of 18 eggs to hatch and make it.
Even though my husband was supremely angry with me for volunteering our home for Missy Peeps, I just kept reminding him of the delicious fresh eggs that our new chicken would produce and the great help she would be in the yard eating all our snails and slugs.
My dreams of fresh eggs were dashed one morning just two days after I started keeping my pet chicken outside.
I had to start keeping her outside. My husband was getting tired of having a chicken in our bedroom. Missy Peeps competed with that spa feeling we were going for. My husband told me it was the chicken or him.
He had spent a week on the couch downstairs when I finally came to my senses. I was watching TV upstairs in my warm comfy bed when all of a sudden I realized how silly I was being. After all, it did seem weird watching “Sex in the City” with a chicken.
It was early in the morning, barely light outside when I heard this sound, sort of a cross between a bad yodel and a bagpipe running out of air. “Oh my God, something’s wrong with Missy Peeps.” I said to my husband. “See I told you it was too cold outside for her. She’s caught a cold.” I said.
My husband slowly walked to the window and peered out at Missy Peeps’ cage. “Are you sure that chicken didn’t just crow?”
I was indignant. “No way. There is no way that was a crow. That was a stuffy nose or…beak.
My chicken was a rooster.
Missy Peeps was Mr. Peeps.
Trying to look on the bright side I thought, well, at least Mr. Peeps will eat all my snails and slugs. And my yard will be lush and green from Mr. Peeps’ droppings.
I never saw my rooster eat a snail or a slug. What he did eat were my plants. Especially the new tender growth. And all the new plants I planted, oh—and the flowers. He didn’t seem to like the weeds though.
For some reason he only liked to poop on the patio. Maybe he was mad at me for making him watch all those episodes of "Sex and the City."
My rooster started to get territorial.
He started with my husband. He chased my children. He threatened my dogs. The last straw came one sunny summer day.
It went like this.
I was preparing lunch. I looked across our driveway to the cottage that we rent out. Our tenant's boyfriend (Let’s call him Bob.) drove up and got out of his truck. In a blur of feathers I saw my haughty rooster run by my window heading toward the unsuspecting Bob. I dropped what I was doing and ran for the kitchen door. Now Bob was a Viet Nam vet, but he really wasn’t prepared for a surprise attack from Mr. Peeps.
This is where everything changes to slow motion.
Bob steps out of his car smiling, a hand in the air to greet his girlfriend. He walks around to the far side of our tenant's car.
I fling the kitchen door open and start down our side porch steps.
Mr. Peeps runs to the far side of my tenant’s car. The opposite way Bob has gone.
They meet in the middle.
From my vantage point as I’m running, all I can see is the car and Bob from the shoulders up. As I’m running (feeling like I’m in one of those dreams where your feet are moving but you’re not getting anywhere), the next thing I see is Mr. Peeps coming up from behind the car and then down on Bob in a flurry of feathers and claws.
He was so surprised and bewildered. He yelled, stepped back and fell over.
It was ugly.
If Alfred Hitchcock had filmed his movie “The Birds” on a farm, it might have looked something like this. Or maybe Stephen King’s “Cujo the Chicken.”
I reached my rooster before he could peck out Bob’s eyes.
I pulled Mr. Peeps off and sent him running in the opposite direction.
Now Bob is angry. He stands up and starts chasing my chicken while screaming, “I’m going to kill that chicken!”
I herded Mr. Peeps into the house and yelled my apologies to Bob.
Mr. Peeps was retired to my friends Simon and Kathleen’s property, up the street from us, with some of his fellow chickens.
In the end I was sort of sad to see him go. I was the only thing that Mr. Peeps ever liked or even tolerated. But go he did. And now Bob and all the rest of my tormented family are safe.
We don’t have fresh eggs, we do have snails and slugs. And my garden is recovering nicely.
You can see Simon and Kathleen’s chickens on the “chicken cam” by visiting nakedchicksontheinternet.com.
Say “Hi” to Mr. Peeps for me.