Keeping Chickens in a “Green Acres” Marriage

I’m probably aging myself when I admit that I grew up watching “Green Acres”, but with Zsa Zsa Gabor in the news lately, it seems that her little sister Eva’s show has had resurgence in our collective consciousness. So when I say that my husband and I are ‘living’ the sitcom, most of you know what I mean, but for those of you who don’t here’s the show’s synopsis reflected in its theme song lyrics:
(In Eddie Albert’s voice)
Green Acres is the place for me.
Farm livin’ is the life for me.
Land spreadin’ out so far and wide
Keep Manhattan, just give me that countryside.

(In Eva’s Hungarian-accented voice)
New York is where I’d rather stay.
I get allergic smelling hay.
I just adore a penthouse view.
Dah-ling I love you but give me Park Avenue.

(Eddie) The chores.
(Eva)…The stores.
(Eddie) Fresh air.
(Eva)…Times Square

(Eddie) You are my wife.
(Eva) Good bye, city life.
Green Acres we are there!

For us, it all happened so fast. It was an urban lifestyle by choice when we started our family in San Francisco, then moved to Providence, RI, although ultimately, somehow, through great cunning, my husband talked me into a house on nine acres of woods in the suburbs. “We’ll get a dog and the kids can ride their bikes,” he said in his sales speech. We’d both had a pretty idyllic childhood in a suburb of New York City, so I knew this was a good idea on paper, but more was yet to be revealed in this new chapter in our family’s life. We did get a dog, and her brother in that first year. – Beagle littermates. That kept us busy for a while, but Doug had a greater vision that I was starting to see glimpses of. One day I saw Craigslist offerings for free chickens left open on the computer screen. Chickens? What’s happening here? We’d seen a few Rhodie Reds walking around our neighborhood, and after a little inquiry found that our town allows chicken keeping. Doug was smitten, and a project was born. Soon a mansion of a coop appeared in a cleared area of our backyard, and eventually a fence grew up around it. Was it magic, subterfuge, or ambush? I couldn’t decide how I felt about this new happening. Was I really ready to be a chicken keeper? In spite of my suburban upbringing, I felt like a city girl at my core. In our youth, we could be in NYC in 30 minutes by train or car, so ‘in it’ we often were. I moved to the city as soon as I could afford it, and loved every minute of my time there. Could I really be expected to change my spots so dramatically for these mysterious creatures?
My husband went off one day to get some grown hens from a man who needed to move back to Columbia – 10 of them to be exact. They arrived stressed out and smelly. Was I up to this? One of the largest hens had somehow lost most of her rear feathers, and my husband wanted me to hold her so he could examine her “vent” to be sure it was not in distress. A vent is the body part that delivers the egg. So there I am holding “Big Chicken” (as we dubbed her) while slathering Preparation H on her rear end. I thought my husband would collapse from the sheer hilarity of the situation. I’m sure he felt he had succeeded beautifully in his diabolical plan to turn me into a farm hand.
Since that life changing moment there have been several serious conversations about who is taking care of ‘the girls’ since I was not keen on adding them to my list of wifely duties. My concerns have been allayed by the assurance that the kids and my husband are the caregivers of choice. Now I get to watch these funny birds out my kitchen window daily without any guilt or resentment. I sometimes even throw some delicious scraps their way, just so they know I secretly love them.
Here are some of the expressions we use that originate from these girls:
Pecking order: definitely a big issue in the daily life of a chicken flock. You can always tell who’s on top and who’s not – or “who rules the roost!”
Chicken feed (or scratch): it is, in fact, an inexpensive product, so it fits that it would represent low salaries or pocket change.
Cooped up: yes, the girls pile in a smallish space for the night to stay safe from predators, but by sunrise they have had enough, and voice loudly how much they want to be released
Henpecked: kind of speaks for itself.
Flew the coop: we had a couple of the girls try this, but after a confrontation with our Beagles they have stayed put.
Until the chickens come home to roost: this roosting is a given each night, and so it represents something one can count on happening.
Don’t put all you eggs in one basket: good advice when sending small children out to collect the eggs of the day, just in case they trip.
I haven’t been able to find an expression that fits my transformation from urban diva to chicken mama, but that’s okay, I’m sure we’ll have many years to come up with one – especially when we add the goat to the mix.

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