I find it hard to believe we've now only had these chickens in their coop, outdoors, for a year, as it feels like our lives here have always included chickens. However, a year it is. This Halloween, the hens feasted on pumpkin guts, dug nests in our new mulch, and seem to have truly, finally discovered the front yard.
I only let them out when I'm home (or making a run over to the community center), so they don't have time to go exploring widely through the neighborhood. During grape season (our downhill neighbor grows grapes along our boundary with her), in early October, they seemed determined to wander into the "bad neighbor" yard (see December 2009 and January 2010 postings, if you're new to the blog, to see why we call it that); I don't know if they were trained away from that behavior by my hose sprayings or by the end of grape harvest, but they don't do that now, mercifully. They wander a bit uphill - into friendlier neighbor territory, though I do try to discourage them. They wander down toward the pool, but seem content to search for bugs in the woods, rather than trying to head across the parking lot for farther pastures. They wander a bit in the side yard, but so far, they have explored very little in front.
I have been glad of this, generally, because I am enjoying having the chickens so much, and I don't want to cause trouble by having them be public (somehow, the blog doesn't feel public, don't ask why!). I've been slow to come out of the proverbial chicken-keeper closet, at least in some contexts. But lately, it is almost as if the fear and anxiety about getting a variance (which was awarded last January!) have finally abated. The coop is still in the backyard, but I've stopped trying to keep them out of sight from the street.
In part, we have a new chicken keeper in the neighborhood, and though I won't out her here, her arrival gave the excuse for a chicken-keeper get-together, at Susan's house. (I hesitate to call it a "chicken dinner" because we didn't even eat eggs) So now we have a community, rather than just two crazy chicken-keepers. Emily has finally told her friends at school, rather than trying to hide the chicken-facts from the upper-cliques. In a further act of self-outing, I invited the garden club conservation committee over to meet the hens, so I've outed myself to the demographic most likely to think me a low-brow Kentucky girl. This is a part of my identity - our family's identity - no longer needing to be hidden.
Oh, well, and one more reason - Gabby, who had been undergoing a particularly unattractive molting season, is finally getting in some new feathers. She's still a bit funny looking, but at least she no longer looks half-plucked.
So let the chickens roam! This Kentucky girl may be unspeakably ashamed to be from the state which elected Rand Paul (if only it were RuPaul instead!), but I'm darned proud to have hens, their companionship and their lovely eggs.
(I think I'll wait at least another year, though, before I try for goats)