Libby, the sweet, hobbling hen. ##Photo by Hilary Berg

Duck, Duck, Goose

A coop’s evolving cast of characters

By Hilary Berg

If you are interested in free-range, organic chicken, duck or goose eggs, I know a guy...

I gave into the idea of a chicken coop a couple years ago. My husband really wanted one, so I made a decision to accept the impending chaos — and manure — of raising more than just canine critters.

Chris and two friends built the coop from scratch. The structure is so sturdy, it could withstand a tornado or other natural disaster, I’m certain.

We started off with three hens named Nuggets, Piccata and Henrietta, plus a cocky rooster. We inherited Libby, a black-and-white sweetie with a limp in her step, followed by the purchase of two turkeys — I’m not allowed to disclose their names — and eventually four ducks, of which only Aflac made it through the first summer, only to be snatched by a bobcat in broad daylight. My son screamed in horror as it grabbed the bird by the neck and took off, white feathers everywhere. I asked Chris to forgo free-range for a while.

Unfortunately, we had no insurance on Aflac or any of the birds, as one by one, they were picked off by wild prey, a couple by each other and one by me. In March, I accidentally backed into the colossal, about-to-be-butchered female turkey resting under my back tire — again, free-range has its perils. She’s now in the freezer awaiting a reason to cook 30 pounds of meat.

Before the accident, Chris had added another six ducks; only two are still alive: a prolific layer and a mean male — drake rage is real. We have four new, to-be-cleverly-named chickens and three recently added asshole geese. My feign apologies for using a bad word — this is a wine magazine, so only adults should be reading this, right? — but these three spell T-R-O-U-B-L-E. 

All that remains of the original flock is Libby, the mild-mannered, hobbling hen that minds her own business and lays beautiful, deep orange-yolked eggs. 

Never counting my chickens before they hatch, I do believe the coop is a unexpected blessing, and I can definitely count on the fact that raising birds will continue to be a wild ride and a tasty investment.

Eggs, anyone?

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