This weekend, the kids, the dog and I (Hubby was in sunny Florida) went to visit my sister who recently left the hipster haven of Brooklyn for a small, bucolic college town more than two hours north of NYC. While she’s renovating her new acquired 1726 farmhouse, she’s living in a different farmhouse she rents from a lovely couple, who couldn’t be more welcoming or generous. Who have helped my sister find a pediatrician, and a plumber, and who offered me a dozen eggs from their chickens – eggs my own children helped gather that very morning.
And who must hate me.
The weekend was great. We hiked along the Hudson River, we pet her neighbor’s goats. We watched as one of the nine remaining Araucana hens her landlord keeps laid an egg. (Coyotes had gotten to nearly 40 chickens this fall, leaving only the nine survivors, fighters all. ) The kids bounced on the trampoline in the backyard with their cousins. We went to a farm stand, had pie. At night, the only sound was the waterfall outside my window, and the wind, rustling through what was left of the leaves.
City girl that I am, I found myself thinking that my sister was right to leave the hustle, bustle, stench and crowds of the city. Who needs to worry about what you wear to walk the dog? Or whether or not your neighbor can hear you screech at your children to turn off the computer? Who wants to worry about bedbugs and botox when you can worry about ticks and Timberland jackets? All I need, I thought, is a lovely old farmhouse with a fire burning in the living room, a pie baking in the oven, and an omelet only an arms reach away in the neighboring barn. Maybe, I thought, it’s time for me to pull a Green Acres and head out to the farm, where life is simple, where skies are blue, where no one urinates on your stoop.
And then my dog killed a chicken.
Imagine, if you will, the perfect Arcadian wonderland: trees laden with red and gold leaves, a waterfall flowing noisily into a bubbling river, and a few regal hens, pecking around the compost heap which no doubt will yield mulch for an organic farm where they will use it to grow heirloom vegetables. Which they will feed to inner city youth deprived of decent produce in their overpriced supermarkets. Who will then not turn to drugs, but instead to rutabagas, and all will be right with the world.
Then imagine pure inbred animal rage, the instinctive attack. The shocked screech of fear. A battle of the beasts. My fifteen pound Yorkie mix against….a chicken.
I had opened the front door to start loading up the car when suddenly, in a streak of straggly fur, Bentley tore out of the house and went straight for the chickens. I am used to the sound of sirens. I am used to the sound of screaming drunks coming home from a night on the town. I am used to the screech of subway cars as they pull into the station, the rants of crazy preachers on subway cars, the banging of NYC Sanitation workers at 7:15 on the only morning of the week that my children have slept past 7am in months.
I am not used to the sound of a chicken fighting for its life.
I ran to the flurry of fur and feathers. I screamed at my dog to stop, to stay, to sit, to down, to do anything other than what he was doing. Every time I reached for him he’d slip out of my none-too-coordinated hands (writing yes. hand-eye — not so much) And all the while the chicken squawked a terrified squawk, until at last, panting, I pulled what I had always thought of as my sweet little puppy off the battered chicken, who lay on the ground like Lyndsey Lohan after a rough night out.
Bad enough that my fifteen pound dog – the kind of dog who wears a yellow rain slicker on bad weather days — had managed to kill a chicken that had survived multiple attacks by vicious, wild coyotes, worse, he had not really killed the chicken, only left it half dead, moaning, unable to move. (see Lyndsey Lohan, above)
Someone was going to have to put the chicken out of her misery.
I went inside to talk to my sister.
“Bentley attacked a chicken. But it’s not dead. We have to kill it. We can’t just leave it like that. It’s in pain.”
“How do you kill a chicken?” we all wondered. Cooking a chicken I can do. Killing a chicken? Not my forte.
We all walked outside to the scene of the crime. It occurred to me that I hadn’t just lost a chicken, I’d lost a dozen free farm fresh eggs! I mean, when your dog kills the neighbor’s chicken, you can’t exactly take that chicken’s eggs. Great. I’d have to kill a chicken, and give back the eggs. Life in the country didn’t seem so Arcadian any more.
But when we got there, the chicken was gone. I don’t know anything about chickens….do they go off somewhere to die? Do they stagger their way to a favorite nesting place as a final resting place? Or had a coyote already gotten to the fresh-killed bird? The dog now safely locked in the car, we scurried up the hill to the chicken coop to see if we would find it there.
And there she was. Still making disapproving clucks, but pecking around the barn like all the other chickens. She was clearly pissed off; if I understood chicken I probably would have heard things like “So I escaped those hormone shots for this?” or “Hey city girl, here’s a tidbit: terriers kill birds. Newflash!” Or simply “Get a leash!”
I saw no blood, no visibly ruffled feathers. And I couldn’t get back to the city fast enough. Because I figured, my dog was trying to tell me something. In NY, we already have it all: a fire burning somewhere at all times (I hear the sirens), a pie baking in someone else’s commercial oven so I can buy a pie, and not have to clean up after baking one myself , and an omelet, only an arms reach away.
Hey, the chicken was alive, wasn’t it? Why shouldn’t I have taken the eggs?
After a dinner of omelets and toast, I went to bed, lulled to sleep by the sound of sirens, honking horns, and drunken sports fans. And as I dozed off I thought – in this dog-eat-chicken world, it’s nice to know there are still some good eggs around.