Photograph courtesy Flickr/Jen SFO-BCN
“Frances, my eight-year-old daughter, fiercely defends the notion of our chickens as “pets.” To us, her skeptical parents, our relationship falls something short of the normal pet-human bond. Our hens don’t relish our presence. To them we are merely vehicles for alimentary sustenance. But technically, at least, Frances is correct that we see our chickens as more than egg-laying entities. A rule in urban backyard husbandry: The moment you give a hen a name, she ascends to pet status. You don’t usually christen a butter-and-rosemary-glazed roast. Whatever their designation, my husband and I risk our neighbors looking askance as we forage oxalis and dandelion greens from their yards to bring to our flock. Every day I harvest treats from my own garden. Broccoli, kale, and sorrel are most welcome, heirloom tomatoes a special treat. I fork through our compost piles for the fruit beetle larvae the hens adore. Because in the end it is still a miracle and a thrill to open the door to the hens’ nesting boxes and find eggs. I always make sure to thank them by name: Veggie, Midnight, Milky Way, Zebra, and Slippers.