So, here's the thing...

meanderings on life and other semi-important stuff

The Grass Menagerie
Bill Bilodeau



Call me Chicken Man!

Okay, don't. Whatever. The fact is, I don't care what you call me. I don't even know you. The reverse, of course, is also true: you don't know me.

Because you don't know me, you don't know about the change. I'm talking sea change here, mega-transformation. I'm talking about my personal metamorphosis from happy go-lucky, pet-free man, to (you guessed it), the chicken man. Like Eddie Arnold's Oliver Douglas in Green Acres, (actually, more like his wife Lisa, played by Eva Gabor), I'm finding myself, very much against my will, being turned away from civilization and toward... Hooterville.

You see, having grown up essentially a product of an urban-suburban environment, my childhood was relatively normal. Pet-wise, I had a dog, actually three, though at different times. I love dogs. I once had a guinea pig that bit the hand that fed it, and later, what started as two, but quickly became several dozen gerbils, none of whom looked anything like Yankees coach Don Zimmer. Several of the gerbils, like the hamster, bit the hand that fed it (mine, in case you haven't been paying attention) when they weren't eating their young (who knew?).

Da-da-da-DA-da, DUM DUM!

"...she decided we would have cats."

Since moving from suburban Boston to New Hampshire last year to take a job on a daily newspaper, my life has developed a somewhat more bucolic tilt.

Of course, it all has to do with having kids (they also bite). Naturally, kids want pets, and my wife (hereinafter to be referred to as THE PARTY OF THE SECOND PART) wanted to indulge them. I say she wanted to indulge them, but that desire had its limits. Specifically, its limit was picking up dog crap and having various furnishings chewed to pieces. So she decided we would have cats.

Da-da-da-DA-da, DUM DUM!



The cats were a bad idea from the start. Not to be one to say, "I told you so," but "I TOLD YOU SO!!!" That was for my wife. You see, I have allergies. That is to say, I'm allergic to cats. My wife knew this. She knew it from the time we started seeing each other and has often seen the effect cats have on me. It is not pretty. My eyes water and slowly puff until they close. I sneeze. My nose runs. My asthma kicks in and I begin to wheeze and suck air. Had I recently taken out a huge life insurance policy on myself, naming her sole beneficiary, I might have understood what she was thinking. As it was, I was clueless (I know, you're thinking I must be to have agreed to this, but it was my own stupid way of making a point).

Anyway, the cats are gone. We gave them away after three months, when I ended up in the hospital.

They were just the start. Unfortunately, my allergies don't extend to other creatures.

Da-da-da-DA-da, Da-da-da-DA-da, Da-da-da-DA-da, DUM DUM!

"...Chinese sucking fish."


For a while we were okay with just fish. Did I mention the fish? Well, the fish started several years ago. Actually, they were my idea. I read somewhere that watching fish lowers stress levels, and figured they'd be low-maintenance. We started with seven, of varying kinds. Again, they immediately began eating each other (what IS it with that, anyway?) until we had four left, all variations of something called tetras, which is Greek for four, so I guess that figured. After about a year, we decided to keep them until they kicked, then ditch the tank. That was four years ago, and they're still going strong. We later got two more fish, but only because the tank was looking pretty slimy. These were something the pet store guy said were called Chinese sucking fish. They did a good job cleaning the algae off the tank, but have the personalities of rocks.

A few months after the cats left, we bought two more fish, but one was pregnant and two extras (babies) got in the water from the pet store by accident. Then the momma fish gave birth to 10 more and we put them and the other two babies in a special netted section of the tank so they wouldn't get eaten by the tetras. Last week, I looked in the netted area, and there were about a dozen more smaller babies in there, and now I don't know how to stop it from becoming a tiny fish version of Plato's Retreat.

Greeeeeen Acres is the place to be.


But the fish weren't enough. So we took in chickens. If you've never had chickens, and most people haven't, let me give you one piece of advice. Don't name them, it just makes them harder to deep fry.

We have three, a rooster and two hens. Actually, it hasn't been bad, except for building them a condo in the yard. Seriously, a friend of my wife's who'd had chickens (possibly even THESE chickens, I'm still not exactly sure where they came from), agreed to give us a chicken house. But, of course, I had to go get it, disassembled, and put it together. This thing is better made than my house. Building it took only several weekends, including the requisite fenced yard, complete with a covering net to protect them from hawks (did I mention we live in the sticks?).

So we had the fish, we had the chickens, and that went so well that my wife agreed to take in even more chickens. These would be baby chicks, which are extremely cute for about three weeks, then become yet more ugly, stupid birds sucking up my paycheck and needing to be tucked in at night, lest they, drowning in their own stupidity, stay outside their house (that took me several weeks to build) all night and freeze to death (but I'm not bitter!). The best part? Because two roosters can't live together peacefully without fighting over the cable remote, I now have to build the baby chicks THEIR OWN HOUSE!

Faaaarrm living is the life for me.

"...hay, rabbit food, chicken chow, etc..."


You'd think this would be enough. Oh, no.

Then, my daughter said she missed her cats, so my wife decided -- four days before Easter -- that we should get a rabbit. Why a rabbit? Because it's not (wheeze) a cat! It's not a dog, either, but it chews on anything it can reach and my entire house has become a bunny-bullet minefield; so you tell me, who's better off without a dog.

So now I have 226 fish (and counting), five chickens and rabbit crap all over my house ("You can't keep the poor thing in that tiny hutch! It's a wild animal. It needs to exercise!"). Not to mention the garden. We make regular trips to the farm and feed store for hay, rabbit food, chicken chow, etc., plus stops at local farms to pick up (I kid you not) sheep manure.

Last week, Mr. Haney stopped by to try to sell me something, and, I swear, one of the pigs at the general store asked if I had change for a dollar.

Green Acres we are theeeeeeere!


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