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.

Chickens aren’t the most sanitary creatures. We found their feathers in their water bowl one day. Another, they’d pooped right on the cloth where we sprinkled their feed. Can chickens get any dumber?

So it’s no stretch to say they’d be more than happy to soil your new reenacting dress with their excrement, as if to say, “hey! Why are you making me practice my public speaking skills to third-graders?”

I’d reply, “Because it’s good for you. Conquer your timidity, you chicken-hearted creature.”

Great. I’m talking to a chicken again.

– Sarah Einselen

Friday editor / Chicken whisperer