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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Coop, There It Is

When my husband isn't busy wrestling woodchucks and skunks, he has been occupying himself with building a chicken coop.  In our backyard.  That is going to house actual chickens.

We've come a long way from New York City, baby.

Our efforts to domesticate poultry begin on May 1st -- just in time for my birthday -- and I am sure I will have more to say about becoming a Mother Hen after I've done some late-night feedings and rocked Chicken Little back to sleep after a bad dream about sky-falling.

Today, I just want to talk about the chicken coop itself.

My feelings about having a chicken coop with real live chickens are lukewarm at best.  My grandfather was the ultimate Mainer/farmer/man's man, a guy whose idea of entertaining me and my sisters was to take us to the racetrack for some betting or enlist us to pull up buckets of water from the fresh-water spring he dug.  Even he would warn us, as we mucked out horse stalls, that chickens were the stinkiest animal you could find on a farm.  I'm a bit queasy at the thought of those odors greeting friend and Johnny Depp alike during a cook-out or drop-by visit.  Their little beaks also freak me out, and I have images of myself streaking across our backyard as my heels get nipped by a gang of crazy chickens who want their eggs back.  I hear those eggs are dirty when they are first laid (I imagined they'd come out as pristine as I find them at the grocery store), and I have enough to clean without "chicken eggs" being added to the list.  Finally, my daughter is paralyzed with fear in the face of any non-human living creature, from ants to water buffalo to cats and dogs.  In fact, before we go anywhere, she asks me "will there be a cat, dog, or any animal of the four-legged variety," and only if I swear on a bible that there will not be does she agree to come along.  Now we're introducing a flock of chickens into her own backyard.  A backyard I predict she avoids until she's 52 and we're dead and she has to come tie up the loose ends surrounding our estate because we forgot to add a provision in our will about who the chickens go to.

BUT, my feelings about my husband are several degrees above lukewarm most days, and he really wanted to Dr. Doolittle the place up.  So here we go.

Now, I must admit, as the days tick by, I'm pretty impressed by the whole chicken coop enterprise.  My husband grew up in a suburb of San Juan, Puerto Rico; he is an attorney; he can speak several languages; he has skin that has never known a blemish; he has eyebrows that today's runway-walkers would kill for.  This same guy has designed and constructed a chicken coop that would make Martha Stewart and Ty Pennington's love child blush.  It has glass-paned windows, a sky-light, a flower box, a hook for a hanging plant, doors that swing open on brushed-nickel hinges, trellised walls for "cross-ventilation," and a roof made of sticks he found in the woods behind our house and thatched together himself.  It is a chicken coop extraordinaire, situated at a just-right angle in the back corner of our house.  If the chickens don't like it, I might move in myself.

He is proud of it, and I am proud of him.  So proud that I am willing to risk our daughter's emotional stability and the ire of every guest ever to pull into our driveway.

Here's the problem.  Our lone adjacent neighbor is an asshole.

To be fair, the lady that actually lives next door to us, in the sense that she receives bills there and takes care of the lawn and when asked "where do you live" provides that street address, is the perfect neighbor.  She keeps to herself and lets us keep to ourselves.  It's her brother that's the asshole.

This guy lives in Texas (of course) and swoops in for visits with Sissy every quarter or so.  On his most recent trip home, the chicken coop was in its earliest stages.  Sensing something afoot, this genius moseyed over and, with the subtlety of a Secret Service agent looking for a good time in Colombia, interrogated my husband as to his intentions with said coop.  My husband was forth-coming, and even went so far as to give Asshole his business card should further communication about what we were doing on our damned property ever be necessary. 

Yesterday, it arrived.  The little emailed missive poorly disguised as a friendly request from neighbor to neighbor.  Asshole just wanted to know, if it wasn't too much trouble, could we please move the now-finished coop to the other side of the lawn.  Pretty please with a cherry on top but really he doesn't care what we prefer do it now or he's going to make our lives miserable with a Chinese water torture of his follow-up emails written in sickly-sweet idiot speak.  Asshole has the nerve to blame the request on his sister (whose only previous interaction with us was to pass along her congratulations, through my mother, on the birth of our son).  Asshole also thought it pertinent to "explain" that the reason for the request is that on their side of the privacy fence that divides our lawns is their "fire pit."  He left it for us to insinuate why that'd be a problem.  Maybe when Asshole and his sister roast marshmallows over the pit they feel badly that the chickens can't join in.  Maybe it's harder to get a fire to start when there are chickens nearby.  Maybe when chickens hear people say "let's go hang out at the pit," they hear "spit" instead and think they're about to get roasted, apple-in-pig-mouth style, and start making a fuss.  I don't know.

What I do know is that last summer, I never saw anyone at or within a stone's throw of the fire pit.  But now our chicken coop is cramping the style of that wasted space.

My husband was of course frustrated but resigned himself to the fact that he'll have to do some disassembling and cart the coop to the approved space.  I am frustrated but resigned myself to the fact that I'm going to have to start ticking through my list of Things to Do in Retaliation to A Prick:

1.  Gather signatures from all the people in his past and present who agree he's an idiot and present it to him at Christmas on a scroll like the one Santa keeps of naughty vs. nice.

2.  Fire blaze my initials onto his front lawn.

3.  Hire Ke$ha to give nightly performances of Tik-Tok in our backyard for the entire summer.

4.  Tell Octo-Mom he's looking for boarders.

5.  Make him live the rest of his life in Texas.

Feel free to chime in if you have other ideas.


  1. Where the chicken coop currently stands build a shed and paint the side that faces them a horrible color. Something REALLY obnoxious. It doesn't bother anyone. And it can hold useful garden tools, or be a playhouse for your daughter. In reading about your coop that your husband built, I'm feeling a bit guilty about the pig house that we're transforming into a chicken coop. Maybe our chickens can come test out your coop ... you know, just to make sure it is comfy enough for when you get your flock.

    1. Dear Anonymous,

      I like where your head is at. But let's take this exchange one step further. Do pigs currently live in your pig house? If so, now that they're getting evicted, they need a loving home. I never thought I'd volunteer to provide such a place for pork, but why don't you bring Porgie and Bess with you when you bring the chickens over for the dry-run? Let's add to the symphonic melodies of farm life we're going to blast in and around Asshole's fire pit.

      This exchange will be a bit awkward since you haven't identified yourself, but I suppose if you can figure your way over to my house, we know each other. Or we should at least be introduced, seeing as you know where I live and all.


    2. Dear Abby,
      The pig shed is currently empty. There used to be a 450 pound pig named Wilbur who lived in it, but he moved away with his owners when we bought the house. He's even viewable from Google Map hanging out in the backyard of this house we now have.

      As far as farm life melodies ... I'm thinking you should add a lama or two. Although the noise would be minimal, the spitting at the neighbors would be fantastic. And, honestly, who wouldn't love to have a cow or a flock of sheep? Their noises are wonderful! You could get fresh milk from the cow and make a little side business from selling wool.

      Best Wishes,
      Farmer in Training

  2. No, he had a pimple on his nose in 1995. I think he named it Yamil, but I could be wrong.

  3. Thanks for keeping him/me honest.