There are few things more important than learning responsibility. Now my parents had no problem teaching me this, but it took me a little while to get smart. I think I was about ten when my parents bought chickens. The old shed out back that wasn't being used became the lucky housing unit for our new found friends. It was a grand chicken house, much bigger than our six chickens ever needed. It had a huge yard and comfy nests. It was a place fit for a king, well, maybe a rooster and his harem. I'm not sure where we acquired our motley crew of chickens, but they were an interesting bunch. We had a white rooster and his sister, Snow White. Three black and white hens that had put on some weight and one little tame hen, Gert, that laid green eggs (yup, green eggs and ham, baby!). It was often my job to gather the eggs from the hen house. Those of you who have raised chickens know the drill. Put on the coat. Slip on the muck boots and head out. It definitely wasn't my favorite job. I was always afraid of getting pecked, but it was my responsibility, therefore, who was I to argue.
I think we had those chickens for about two years. Then one morning, I walked in the hen house and there laid Snow White, dead. I'm not sure how she passed on, but it was a sad day. The weirdest thing about it was how much her death affected her rooster brother. He became sorely depressed and didn't make it much more than another month. Even chickens have feelings!
We were down to four chickens.
I guess those three heavy ladies didn't get enough to eat or something because they started eating their own eggs. We tried to keep them from such habits, but it was no use. We were about to head out on family vacation for a while and something had to be done. I had been gone all day at a friend's house. When I returned, I was alerted to the unfortunate demise of the ladies. I was ticked! Not that I really liked them all that much. It was the principle of that matter. My mom cleaned them up and canned them. We took the canned ladies on our vacation. The whole time I refused to eat them. Not that they tasted bad. I just couldn't bear the thought.
The last little chicken went to a fine home before we left for vacation. It turned out that she was just too nice. She wasn't ready for the dangers of the world and became lunch to some dog. I think I even shed some tears over Gert.
Well, we didn't get any more chickens when we came home from our vacation. The chicken days were over. The shed was cleaned out and became a house for my dad's random stuff. It still smelled like chickens for a while, a wonderful reminder of the whites, the three ladies, and Gert. Little did I know that there was still hope for that shed and pen. It would become home to another sort of responsibility, but that's a whole different story for another day.