The Education of Courtney P.

You learn something new every day. Most recently, for me, I got a crash-course education in the happenings under the hood of a car. Sure, I know the basics like, “This is how you check your oil level” and “This is where you pour the blue liquid that looks like Kool-aide, but don’t drink it. It most certainly is not Kool-aide", but I’m not overly familiar with how the car actually works and why it doesn’t just spontaneously blow up every time you turn a key in the ignition. My ever-patient husby took the time to point out different parts of the engine and how it worked towards the greater good of keeping me safe. I can’t even say “alternator” right (it always comes out “aldernator”), but by golly! I know what it does! *looks condescendingly over the rim of my bifocals* It converts power from the gasoline engine to electrical energy for the battery.

You know what else I learned over this Fourth of July weekend? You can get a Ph.D. in … poultry. That’s right, you can major in CHICKENS.

God bless America.

We went to a weenie roast at my uncle’s/grandparents’/their-houses-are-right-next-door-to-each-other, and after we gorged ourselves (okay, just me) on hotdogs and s’mores (again, God bless America), Uncle Paul (my family by marriage) offered to show us his new chicken coop. I was immediately intrigued.

There’s a shadow on a part of my adolescence that I’m not particularly proud of, but I feel like I can trust you guys, so here it is: I had a strange affinity towards chickens. Like, really strange. Somewhere in my dad’s house are boxes of chicken paraphernalia, a plethora of stuffed poultry, if you will. I fondly remember two speckled chicken stuffed animals I had, one black and one brown, named Larry and Darryl. If you chucked them at the ground they started clucking; I displayed them proudly on my bureau. Don’t ask me what fueled this compulsion, but I was totally into chicks.

So you can imagine my personal joy as we made the trek to the end of Paul's backyard! I probably would have been skipping had I not been so cautious of the random landmines of dog poop all over the place. Anyway, we got to the chicken coop and it looked like a hamster cage; it had a little ramp that the chickens could walk up and down to get to their “sleeping quarters” (gosh, the amount of money I would pay to see a line of chickens running up and down that ramp!). Actually, calling it their “sleeping quarters” is somewhat generous. It was more like, a sleeping shoebox. I was dumbfounded when Paul said there were seven hens hanging out in there. “They like to sleep close together. Do you want to see them?” Oh god, YES.

So Paul opened up a wee door in the red hutch and myself, Clay, Mitch (my bro-in-law), and Molly (his fiancĂ©e as of YESTERDAY!!!!) all peeked in. Seven bobbing heads peered back at us. 14 eyes scanned us uneasily, waiting to see what we’d do (we laughed). It was feather-to-feather contact in there, one hen practically sitting on the next, their soft clucking like silent screams of “GET ME OUT OF HERE!!!!!!!!!!!” Then Paul began to pluck (ha, no pun intended) each chicken out of the hutch one-by-one for us to examine.

Did you know you can have chicken mutts? Like two different types of chickens can get together and create some sort of magical, delicious hybrid. It’s like a puggle, but with a beak and wattle (the wattle coming in as a sign of completed puberty. You can’t lay an egg until you’ve reached puberty.). They come in as many colors and patterns as a litter of kittens. I know that NOW. I mean, common sense would have told me this could be true beforehand, but hearing it said with an actual chicken being used as a live visual aide makes the lesson that more valuable.

Chickens are ridiculously soft. I never would have guessed that about feathers. I guess it makes sense since people sleep on down comforters and whatnot, but I’ve never picked up a lonesome seagull feather at the beach and rubbed it on myself because it felt good (that’s a lie). You know why I didn’t really know that for sure? No bird has ever let me catch it, ever. Looking back on my life, I now find it somewhat sad because I think this weekend, at the ripe age of 24, was the first time I actually touched a bird. Unless baby chicks and ducks count. I’ve molested plenty of those at the good ole’ county fair. They’re fuzzy and delightful. But a full grown bird? Never.

Then I had a zillion questions about laying eggs because I’ve never really thought about it before (other than squawk, egg, breakfast). Paul started explaining a few things to us, but I got distracted by one of the brown chickens bobbing her neck at me like “Oh no she didn’t!”, then I started thinking about how much I miss Ricki Lake. At some point in Paul’s talk I heard him mention his friend Martha who has a Ph.D. in chickens, and then my mind was officially blown.

Yes folks, can you most certainly get a doctorate in the study of poultry science. Looks like I need to seriously reevaluate my career goals.