“There is nothing more rare, nor more beautiful,
than a woman being unapologetically herself;
comfortable in her perfect imperfection.
To me, that is the true essence of beauty.”
~ Steve Maraboli
I Dream of Chickens
I love chickens. I think they are beautiful birds. In particular, though, while roosters are undeniably gorgeous, it’s the girls, the hens, I like to spend time woolgathering about. To have my own small flock of girls would be a dream come true. I’ve been infatuated with the idea of keeping a few laying hens for a long time now. But, unlike New York City, Calgary does not allow chickens. So, unless I move away from the city, dreaming about chickens is my only option (and not a bad one either–dreaming about chickens simply makes me happy).
My lovely and vivacious sister-in-law, who grew up on a farm, and who well knows what it takes to raise chickens, flat out laughs at me when I wax poetic about my dream to have a few laying hens. She tells me, quite adamantly, that the reality of keeping chickens bears absolutely no resemblance to my romantic notions. I argue that I have no interest in raising a lot of chickens, I just want three or four happy girls, pets really. Who knows, she may be right—I’ve certainly never cared for a chicken or cleaned up chicken poop. My notion probably has all the practicality of a fanciful city girl, her head in the clouds, dreaming about the romance of country living.
Still, I like to believe that I’d love keeping a few girls. And since I specialize in fanciful thought, I can’t help myself: every now and again I indulge myself and step smack dab into the middle of a full-blown, colourfully detailed chicken scenario. I dream of quietly stealing out in glorious early morning light, padding silently through dew-dropped grass to greet the day and greet my girls. I know exactly what my hen-house will look like. I can feel the smooth, round shape and weight of each egg as I carefully lay them in my wicker basket. And when I call, Ruby, Germaine and Felicity all come running to greet me. Why not indulge? It’s free. It’s fun. And it makes me happy.
Chickens in Fine Art
My infatuation with chickens cannot be said to be fleeting. Early in my university days, I came across a print of Milton Avery’s White Rooster. I adored that print—so whimsical with its blue tree, pinkish earth, two happy hens and a white rooster. The print was quite large, and I paid what was to me back then an enormous amount of money to have it properly framed. I laboriously lugged it around every time I moved (which was pretty much every couple of semesters for a number of years). I met my partner back then and he too fell in love with the print. He happily helped me centre it and hang it on a prominent wall in every place we ever lived in back in our happy-go-lucky vagabond days. That was many years ago and somewhere along the way I parted with it. I’m not sure exactly how or where or why I let it go, but some days I find myself wistfully wishing I hadn’t.
It turns out that chickens are not a very popular subject in fine art. I have no idea why. But Milton Avery must have had the same attraction to them as I, for he captured their essence so beautifully. Besides White Rooster, Avery also painted Chicken, No. 1 Chicken, and Two Chickens, as well as others.
The debate continues in urban centres: should chickens be allowed in the backyards of city dwellers? Some cities allow them, some do not. But one thing seems sure: regardless of the law, you simply can’t stop people from secretly keeping a few chickens on the sly:
HenCam is one of my favourite websites. It’s operated by Terry, a animal lover who lives in a small town west of Boston, Massachusetts. Terry shares her backyard animals with us via four live-streaming cameras which give us a peek into life in the henhouse and barn in Terry’s backyard, which is large enough to happily house a flock of chickens, two goats, a couple of dogs, and a rabbit.
For years now, thanks to Terry, I’ve been getting my fix of happy hens (and occasional goat antics), without having to clean up chicken poop. If you love chickens and goats, I highly recommend checking out HenCam. (Keep in mind the time in Boston – if it’s after sunset there, the cameras will be dark.)
And, if I ever do get to have my dream girls, Terry’s amazing blog will be an invaluable source of chicken-keeping expertise. In the meantime, I’ll keep dreaming about my beautiful girls.
CHICKENS IN FILM
I can’t leave this post without mentioning my favourite chicken flick. Chicken Run is a delightful 2007 stop motion claymation film. It’s a humorous take on the 1963 film, The Great Escape. I love this film. It’s a wonderfully creative and fun film about ingenuity, persistence, hope and freedom. Watch it, laugh and let the girls inspire you!
Brahma Bantam Hen, digital art by madlyinlovewithlife; © 2013 madlyinlovewithlife
Henny-Penny, illustration by madlyinlovewithlife; © 2009 madlyinlovewithlife
Good Morning Sunshine, illustration by madlyinlovewithlife;
© 2009 madlyinlovewithlife
Blue Chicken, illustration by madlyinlovewithlife; © 2014 madlyinlovewithlife
Free Range Felicity; collaborative digital art project by madlyinlovewithlife and MC; © 2012 madlyinlovewithlife & MC