First week of school, and it made me think about the impact that peer pressure has had on our family life. We produced these adorable, angelic little cherubs, raised them up all wholesome like out here on the farm, and then at the ripe old age of 4ish had to turn them over to “the system”, where they were immediately led astray by what we liked to call “those town kids”.
On one occasion though, it was a fellow farm child who led my dear little boy down the wayward path of buying contraband and smuggling. You always live in fear of the day a schoolmate comes to school “selling”, and on this day my innocent 12ish year old young man was lured into “buying”. He paid his classmate $2.00, and came home on the bus with the contraband well hidden, stuffed under his denim jacket. He sauntered down the driveway, high on the adrenalin rush from the transaction and covert smuggling operation.
His sisters raced ahead, anxious to be the one to squeal on him: “Richard bought some baby chicks at school”. Of course he did. An enterprising (some might say shifty) kid brought in some baby chicks to show the class, and Richard’s change purse was bulging with that $2.00 Pizza Day money, and I’m sure there was a heck of a sales pitch, and suddenly he’s the proud owner of 3 chicks. Why you ask? Believe me, I asked too. “Because they were cute, and I like them.”
Chicken farming was never in our short or long-term plan. But you hate to stifle when they have an interest, so we set about building a coop of sorts, and going to the Co-op to buy chicken feed. However, there was one small issue with our approach. These chicks were somewhat urbanized (perhaps from their brief stint as celebrities at the school, or their whirlwind school bus ride), and they never really acted like normal chickens. For example, they were Houdini like, and could not be contained by any “coop”. They would consistently stage breakouts, then liked to wander the driveway, behaving like 3 clucking little Walmart greeters to anyone who stopped in.
As they grew, it became apparent that one was indeed a rooster, which posed no problem at first. He was just a bit more interesting than the others to look at, with his nice red fascinator thing on his head. But then two bad habits developed in quick succession.
- The group of three decided that the place they wanted to sleep at night was not in the barn, but instead on the step, right underneath our bedroom window.
- The rooster discovered his ability to crow.
The idea of a rooster crowing to some is so appealing, so folksy, having a built-in alarm clock that lets you know when the sun is rising. But this guy was messed up. He was definitely an overachiever. He thought we should be alerted to things like “the wind is picking up” or “it looks like rain” or “the moon went behind a cloud” or “the sun is going to come up in about 4 hours”. And for the record, all you city dwellers who know your animal noises from a Fisher Price “See-n-Say”, it doesn’t sound like “cock-a-doodle-doo” either. That sounds cute. This sounded like a deafening :
– which shakes you out of a sound sleep. Approximately every hour or so. All night. On work nights. Plus, fun fact – chickens don’t care if you yell at them, or throw stuff at them from a second story window. Parents of colicky newborn triplets were getting more sleep than we were. Needless to say, they had to go.
The booming metropolis where we live has a semi-annual “Fur and Feather” show, so in the fall we packed these three up in a cage and dropped Richard off to see if it was true that there was indeed one born every minute, and he could make a sale and recover his costs … which by now were considerable with all the chicken feed and the spectacular, yet unused chicken coop.
We arrived to pick him up at the end of the day, and he was smiling a victorious smile, and there were no chickens in sight. He had made a deal. That was the good news. The bad news was that there was another one of his fast talking “peers” at the fur and feather show, who browbeat (I’m speculating) him into trading the chickens rather than selling – and he was now the proud owner of 3 rabbits.
The only thing the rabbits had in common with the chickens was that they too could not be contained, so we now had these little creatures hopping about the lawn and gardens. I won’t go on … but let’s just say that this episode ended rather badly, and eventually over the next year, due to the conscientious efforts of our three cats, we did not have to attend another Fur and Feather show to dispose of this purchase … and at our house the phrase “the rabbit died” took on a whole new, less devastating meaning than it had previously.
Eventually he got better at resisting peer pressure and sales pitches – although I think he may still be a sucker for cute chicks, especially if he likes them.