Last night I dreamed of chickens. There may have been a rooster in the bunch, but that level of detail in my dream is hazy. I remember they were enormously feathered in varying shades of rust and gold, and they were enormous, for chickens, almost four feet tall. I could pretty accurately gauge their height because, in my dream, they were tightrope-walking on the utility lines in front of the house. One carried a polka-dot umbrella.

Here where I live, chickens are the new black. That may not be what you’d expect of a beach town, but it’s more and more common to walk through a residential neighborhood and see a chicken coop tucked into a side yard, or next to a driveway. The weekly paper carries notices of coop-building workshops, and both feed shops and nurseries alike offer up fowl advice along with organic feed and baby chicks.

A haughty Silkie poses for me

Growing up in the ’70’s in an urbanized suburbia, the only chicken I was exposed to, if it wasn’t deep-fried, was the tiny white plastic one from the Fisher Price Farm Set. This made sense to me, since eggs were white, too. I knew from visits to the Herpetarium at the St. Louis Zoo of the great multi-colored variety of snakes and lizards out there in the world, but that information didn’t translate to the chicken world. I was an adult before I visited the poultry exhibit at the county fair and learned that – just like snakes, and people, too – chickens come in all colors and shapes. As do their eggs.

I started thinking about a coop of my own after reading Novella Carpenter’s book Farm City: Confessions of an Urban Farmer. I especially enjoyed her accounts of Chinatown dumpster-diving, thriftily carrying tasty leftover green things to her hens, and the wonderfully rich, deeply hued yolks in the eggs they subsequently produced. But we won’t be building a coop of our own anytime soon. Mainly because the only place that makes sense – beneath my mini-orchard trio of lemon, apple, and aprium trees – is also the spot that makes the least amount of sense. This is in the front of the house, between the front walk and the shed beneath which we’ve learned that skunks nest. Marauding nighttime raccoons and skunks, each vying to get into the chicken coop, would be too loud and smelly for me. I think that would officially make me a Bad Neighbor – although it would be hard to knock Harley-Revvin’-Classic-Rock-Blastin’ guy on the corner out of first place.

Kid Two thought my dream was truly bizarre, but as it turns out Jack Prelutsky also dreamed of chickens. Here’s how his turned out:

Last Night I Dreamed of Chickens
by Jack Prelutsky

Last night I dreamed of chickens,
there were chickens everywhere,
they were standing on my stomach,
they were nesting in my hair,
they were pecking at my pillow,
they were hopping on my head,
they were ruffling up their feathers
as they raced about my bed.

They were on the chairs and tables,
they were on the chandeliers,
they were roosting in the corners,
they were clucking in my ears,
there were chickens, chickens, chickens
for as far as I could see…
when I woke today, I noticed
there were eggs on top of me.

Reminds me of this old joke: last night I dreamt I ate a giant marshmallow. When I woke up, my pillow was gone!