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Gill has been known to get carried away when she comes upon something that takes her fancy. NO, you’re thinking…not our Gill!

Yes…such was the case a couple of summers ago when she saw an ad for a chicken coop. Now I must explain first that Gill has always wanted chickens (or beehives) in the backyard– MY backyard. Because the flock of 24 mallards I regularly host isn’t enough for her. For a girl who lives in and loves the city, she delights in the idea of urban farming…up close and personal. She always felt thwarted that local laws wouldn’t allow me to fulfill her fowl vision. With the exception of a few coops that were ‘grandfathered’ in five years ago, it has been illegal to have backyard chickens in this jurisdiction. I suspect that she believes, since she moved out, I have nothing to do and need a hobby. Hence, chickens. Seriously, Gill?

When I let slip recently that our local city council was rethinking its restrictive bylaw, she jumped on board and practically demanded that I go to city hall and set up camp, taking up the plight of chickens everywhere… as in, they should be allowed in the burbs and not be discriminated against. Gill has never really warmed up to the idea of the sterility of the burbs and this was an opportunity to, as she saw it, breathe some life into them…not to mention bird poop and eggs. And what better way to ease city dwellers gradually into the acceptance of chickens than by providing a posh chicken coop? One day when she was trolling the internet, she came upon The Perfect Thing. The  Eglu, as it was called, was an attractive addition to any yard, much in keeping with the ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ mentality that pervades most urban dwellers. It was shaped like an egg, came in different attractive colours, and was guaranteed to be a show stopper.

Putting aside the notion that she thinks I need a hobby, I have yet to determine why Gill is fascinated with backyard chickens.

She tried to appeal to my practical nature first.”Ma, think of all the money you could save by having chickens. You’d collect your own fresh eggs. And you could finally compete with Martha Stewart if you had your own chickens laying eggs!Take Martha’s Mottled Cochin Bantams with their dust mop feet and raise her a  Sussex or Wyandotte…or better yet, a Leghorn. I hear Martha has over 190 hens…you could leave her in the dust in no time, Ma!”

“How is it that you know so much about chickens?”

“Ma, you forget I love researching strange and obscure topics…It’s what I do for a paycheck.”

“Yes, well, the practicality of a paycheck is refreshing. Apart from that, it must have escaped your notice that nobody here LIKES eggs…except for L’il Sis who loves souffle made with buckets of cheese to kill the egg taste…and since she’s allergic to cheeses, I cook the dish at my own peril, only once a year. As it stands now, a single carton of eggs can languish in my fridge for months before being consumed. Then YOU start looking for the ‘best by’ dates and make me throw them out, yelling ‘Salmonella” at the top of your lungs. So, yes, I can see how having my own source of eggs is a definite plus. NOT! Besides, if I’m that desperate for eggs, one of my canaries is now sitting on four of her own. I can make the world’s tiniest omelette if I so choose.” (Not to worry, readers, they aren’t fertile. Her ‘partner’ raises her hopes from his nearby cage by singing her into a state of ecstasy…hence the eggs. And before anyone calls the SPCA, let it be known that I am preventing the two horny birds from conducting an incestuous relationship — they are brother and sister. Better a little frustration from afar –think Pyramus and Thisbe– than special needs babies.)

All this talk of chickens stirred up L’il Sis. A bird freak like the rest of us, she was invited into her landlady’s place to visit a baby quail they had found. She took pictures, cuddled it, did everything but kidnap it in her bag. And the only reason she didn’t is that she sensed the landlady would frisk her on the way out. I have a feeling, with a family like mine, I should just give in to the inevitable and have Eglus on standby … in three colours…just in case.

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