I don’t live in a city, but I can’t exactly say that I live in a farm town either. I don’t have to wake up before dawn everyday to milk a cow- but what I do have is a best friend who owns chickens. My best friend Maggie and her family started raising chickens when we were both about eleven. What started off as twelve eggs in an incubator eventually turned into thirty noisy birds. Every day when I used to walk over to Maggie’s house, we’d go out to the coops and hunt for eggs. It was like receiving a warm little treasure when we would lift up a hen and scoop out the eggs from underneath her. We became chicken experts together, so it wasn’t much of a surprise when her parents asked me to chicken sit when they went on vacation.
It was one of the coldest weeks of the year, and Maggie’s family had left me tending to the chickens in snow up to my shins. I would trudge down the street to her house twice a day to let the chickens into their enclosure, collect eggs, and then shoo the birds back into their coops at night. I didn’t mind the work most of the time, but on the last night of my chicken duties, the situation became ugly.
Almost every day that week snow had flurried down, and the nights were frigid enough that the new layers of snow would freeze over. When I stepped on the untouched snow, it was like I was breaking shards of ice beneath me. Despite slightly frozen hands, things were going as well as they could- considering the conditions. I collected a few eggs, and scattered some cracked corn as a late night treat for the hens. The real trouble came when it was time to put the roosters to sleep.
Maggie’s dad was a clever man who rigged up some contraptions that were meant to make chicken tending much easier. One of his innovations was a pulley system that made it possible to close the chicken coop doors without having to enter the enclosure. The exits and entrances were connected to a thick rope with wooden spikes at the end. I would pull the rope to open the door, and then wedge the spike between holes in the wire fencing to keep the door open. To close the door, I would just un-jam the wooden piece from the wire and let the rope become limp. Usually the hook and eye that served as the pulley didn’t cause a problem, but that night a piece of ice had formed on the rope that shut the roosters’ door. The door to the rooster’s coop would close partially, but the rope would become jammed every time the ice hit the metal eye. I tried everything to get the door to close. I tried letting the rope go quickly, thinking the cylindrical chunk of ice would break when it hit the metal, but it didn’t work. After fifteen minutes of futile attempts, I became frustrated and started the walk back to my house to ask my mom for help.
On the journey home, I thought about what Maggie’s dad had told me about how it was okay to leave the door open if I couldn’t make it closed for some reason. I knew it was practically impossible for coyotes or other animals to enter the rooster pen, but I still felt horrible about leaving my job unfinished. I even felt guilty about leaving the roosters susceptible to the elements- even if it was only for one night. By the time I was back at my house, it was dark, so my mom grabbed some flashlights and drove us back down the street. She assessed the situation and tried the same thing I had, which yielded similar results. I was devastated, but my mom had an idea that I failed to think of myself. We rushed home again and rummaged through the drawers until we found a neglected BIC lighter. Her plan seemed flawless- we would simply melt away the ice which would allow me to close the door all the way.
I was frustrated that I hadn’t thought of something that practical on my own, but was excited and relieved that I would finally be able to close the uncooperative door. I would soon be disappointed though, because we hadn’t accounted for the wind that would blow the flames away from the ice and onto our fingers. Again and again my mom and I took turns trying to get the flame to cooperate, but with no luck. Eventually we had to give up; staying at the coops would be a waste of time. Although my week of chicken sitting was over five years ago, I still have the same attitude when it comes to fulfilling a responsibility. I’m willing to make sacrifices and accept help from others, as long as job gets done.