Joy of chickens

Who knew I had so many fans on Kauai? So many anxiously waiting to see me every day? Who would have believed that when I walk out the front door of our Lihue home each morning, it’s a sure thing that a small crowd of young and old will be waiting for me?

But it’s true. They’re out there, milling around in our yard, standing in the driveway and for those that are impatient, stepping tentatively onto our lanai and even hopping on the table and chairs and trying to look inside the screen door.

And when they’re really wondering where I am, one, or more, of them will let out a cry loud enough to wake us and the neighbors, well before the sun rises.

“COCK-A-DOODLE-DOO.”

Well, it sounds kind of like that.

Yep. Talking about chickens. Roosters. Hens. Babies.

If you feed them, they will come.

Now, you might question why on God’s green Earth my wife and I would want to attract chickens to gather outside our home every morning, particularly roosters that start their crowing early and continue until after dusk. Why would we buy bird feed at the store and toss out handfuls each morning to our feathered friends? Are we crazy? I have my reasons.

Let’s start with the pragmatic.

Chickens eat bugs. And with more chickens roaming in our front and back yards, the number of cockroaches that find their way into our home has declined. It’s almost becoming a rare thing for one to show up in our kitchen or living room. Chickens are perhaps the best line of organic defense against bugs we could buy. While Ipo is our guard dog (as much as a sleepy 11-year-old lab can be) against any home invaders at night, chickens are on duty against cockroaches during daylight hours. And a house free of bugs is a blessing.

But the best part of having chickens around is the joy they bring with them each day. Yes. That certainly sounds odd. Joy from feeding chickens. It’s somehow relaxing. Go figure. No one has ever linked chickens with joy unless it was someone enjoying fried chicken.

You see, strange as it sounds, I’ve gotten attached to them. There’s the hen with four babies. And another hen with 12 babies. This mom must be doing something right to have so many babies still alive. And there’s the roosters. One, I call Whitetail. Another is Whitetail 2. And a third, you guessed it, is Whitetail 3. Sorry I’m not more creative. Number one has been around the longest. The other day, he and Whitetail 2 put on quite show as they faced off briefly, feathers flaring out, before both resumed eating, neither willing to back down but neither looking for a battle, either.

When my regular customers don’t show up, I wonder where they are and hope the small ones are OK.

Believe it or not, there’s a delight in watching a new hen and new babies scurrying across our neighbor’s lawn to reach our yard as I’m tossing out feed. I can’t help but smile when chickens come charging up our driveway if they’re running late. I’ll often hear the babies chirping well before I see them emerge from the brush, one after the other.

“Relax. There’s plenty for all of you,” I’ll say, much in the same manner I speak to Ipo, as if she understands me.

Ipo, by the way, seems to have become friends with Whitetail. The other afternoon as Ipo was sitting in the yard and I was in the lanai, Whitetail wandered up and stood between us, just staring back and forth, clearly not the least bit afraid. In fact, he was about to join me on the lanai until Ipo stood up and walked over, as if to say, “That’s close enough.”

Ipo usually watches me feed the chickens each morning. She’s too old to be a mighty chicken chaser. But every now and then, as if to show she’s still the boss, she’ll slowly walk into the yard when I’m feeding them, forcing the chickens to scatter. Once they have, she’ll stand for another minute, look around, satisfied they demonstrated proper respect, turn and walk back to her bed on the lanai and plop down. Then, the chickens will reappear as quickly as they disappeared. So it goes.

I’ll toss out a few more handfuls before saying, “That’s it today. See you tomorrow.”

Feeding them is, I find, rewarding for the reason that it’s a good start to another day on paradise.

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