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October 17, 2013

FRIDAY: A hen that's for real

I never heard so many people in my life ask, “is that real?”

I just went to a reenactment with my cousins. And their chickens. When we’re reenacting history, we stick a little rooster and his little hen into what looks like an oversized bird cage made of sticks, and we do our best to show people the wonders of 1812-era chickens.

We all take turns removing the hen and holding her out to be petted. And not just holding her – doing our best to keep her calm so she doesn’t start flapping her wings and squawking, trying to play a game of catch-me-if-you-can. “It’s OK, sweetie. You’re just fine.”

Great. Now I’m holding conversations with a chicken.

Passing children usually ask to pet the chicken – unless they’re 2 years old, in which case the kids are more chicken than the chicken is. But adults? They have a different question.

“Is it real?”

My uncle, weaving another stick-birdcage nearby, answered more than once: “No, it’s fake.” We fashioned a clay one and spent 15 hours painting it to look like a real chicken. And hid a few pieces of twine inside to make it twitch.

Also, I have a bridge in Manhattan I’d like to sell you.

At reenactments, everything has to be “period correct” – so, no, you can’t have your cell phone if you’re one of the reenactors. They wouldn’t have had those back then.

But it doesn’t end there. You can’t even have a chicken if its breed hadn’t been developed yet. “You! With the Chantecler chicken! Hide that thing before somebody figures out you’re carrying around a time-traveling fowl!”

The trick with chickens is avoiding the bird poop.

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