A few weeks back, Tami invited me over for a neighborly catch-up on what would have been the beginning of her son’s 24th year. We walked down her lane to his grave and back to her house where we settled into lawn chairs on a platform in the shade outside their expansive chicken pen. “Chicken TV is keeping me sane,” she says, as we bask in that timeless world, mesmerized by the languid pecking and the occasional drop of a leaf.
I often visit the mix of Rhode Island Reds and golden Polish hens at Judy, Helen, and Ted’s and return home with eggs. The other day I brought home a dozen from my friend Shaine, who took me for a tour of her evolving chicken pen: a roofed shelter so tall I didn’t even come close to having to stoop.
Shelley, too, has re-populated her chicken pen in this time of hunkered-down food insecurity. It’s a smart move, given rising egg prices and a reluctance to mask up and wander the grocery aisles in search of protein.
So, when Shelley’s mornings yield to the demands of a new school year, I suggest we replace our weekly cool-of-the-day walk with some afternoon Chicken TV. Amy joins us, and I bring a bowl of shishito peppers fried in sesame oil and seasoned with tamari.
Amy had brought her lunch, so when she’d eaten as many peppers as possible she tossed one to the roving rogue hen who ate it outside the pen in full view of her envious audience.
Laughing, we threw the rest of the peppers into the pen, inciting a flurry of activity: a race to the finish with the birds gulping down peppers in one bite before picking up another and running off with it.
After things settled down, we dabbed our eyes and resumed our quiet conversation, insulated from the workings of the outer world, tuned in only to the scratch and peck beneath the rustle of Shelley’s backyard shade trees.