Chicken love

Isobel Yeap on the beautiful bird.

Image via poppy, Flickr. Image via poppy, Flickr.

The other day I decided that I loved chickens. I woke up one morning and I thought, you know what’s underrated? Chickens. In fact, I worked myself into such a state of infatuation that I found myself speaking about them at a party. “I love chickens!!!” I said loudly, in hope of provoking a meaningful discussion. “Me too,” my friend replied. “What is your favourite species?” At this point I froze. I became deeply ashamed. My face turned the colour of a rooster’s comb. I realised that I didn’t have a favourite species. I felt like someone at a music festival who had just been called out on not knowing any of the bands. I felt like an imposter who had been exposed. “I don’t have one,” I admitted, tears glistening in my eyes. He looked at me strangely. “But you said you liked chickens.”

After this I was inspired to learn more about chickens. At another party I used my icebreaker (yeah, sometimes I recycle them, but a girl’s gotta find a way to get by in this cruel, cruel world), “I love chickens!!!” I yelled. I had picked a favourite species so was ready for the next question. But something even better happened. My friend Jess said, “Oh really? That’s cool. My mum won this book in a raffle called Beautiful Chickens. Would you like to borrow it?”

“Is the Pope Catholic?!?!?!?!!?!” I replied, tears again glistening in my eyes, only this time, they were tears of joy and not of sorrow.

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I was so excited about the book, Beautiful Chickens. I even cleared a space on my bookshelf for it. I threw out stupid books that represented the old me and left space for the chicken book that would represent the new me. I thought of sayings that involved chickens, including, “Don’t count your eggs before they hatch,” and “What came first? The chicken or the egg?” Also, “Why did the chicken cross the road?” I tried to work these sayings into all conversations. My tutor would say, “I think that a lot of neurological conditions can be traced back to the impact of toxins on the locus coeruleus”. I would reply, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket”. One time, my classmate said, “Where is my phone?” and I replied, “I’m sitting on it. Roosting like a chicken.”

Anyway, Jess was busy because she had exams so in the meantime she showed me a link to the book on the Australian Braodcasting Corporation (ABC) Shop website. Here, I wrote an ecstatic premature review, and I was stoked when I realised that the website had actually published it. “Mum! I am a published literature critic!” I yelled, for I was downstairs and she was upstairs but in a room with an open door. She came downstairs and read my review, which was one of my best – both pithy and gushy at the same time. “I don’t get it,” she said. “The sky is falling!!” I replied.

Luckily Jess is a woman of her word and she did lend me the book. I was so happy when this happened. “Wow thanks!!!!” I said, as she handed it over. I flung my palms towards my cheeks in an effort to stop my face cracking apart with joy. “Yeah, no worries. No one reads it at home anyway.” she replied and I felt like someone who had discovered a great thing. For example, I felt like the person who discovered the internet.

I read Beautiful Chickens on the bus. Many people looked at me askance, their heads cocked to one side thinking, “Look at that chicken lover at peace with the world.” I smiled at them in return. Love for chickens, love for the world, love for them poured forth from my tender soul. In those few minutes, I went from atheist to peculiar type of pantheist – I had a deep reverence for exactly one part of nature: the chicken.

I was having such a great time reading the chicken book at the dining table. I bonded with my mum who used to have pet chickens as a child. I texted all my friends multimedia messages which were photos of the beautiful chickens. One friend replied that she didn’t really like chickens because she thought they looked stupid. I told her she reminded me of Werner Herzog in this film. Also, here:

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But then I thought, perhaps she does not understand. She is a willowy and graceful girl and perhaps she had just not found her spirit chicken. So I sent her another multimedia message and wrote, “You look like this chicken.”

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Still, I was troubled. I felt bad that I had not purchased the book like a true chicken lover. I had only borrowed it. I wanted the writer to earn royalties. As an economist, I wanted to show my support by generating market demand. And still only my computer really understood me.

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So I went to the ABC Shop. They have lots of great books there covering a range of topics including, horses, being pregnant and being ugly. However, I could not find the book Beautiful Chickens, even in the lifestyle section. “Excuse me,” I said, “do you have the book Beautiful Chickens?” The lady at the counter typed at her computer in an official way then declared, “No-one has bought that book since 2011. Perhaps try David Jones?” Woah. That hurt. It was like that scene in Mean Girls where Regina George can’t fit into her formal dress and the snooty shop lady looks her up and down and says, “You could try Sears.”

David Jones. David Jones. Well it was my only hope and I consoled myself by thinking that at the very least I was generating consumer demand by asking for the book and declaring my willingness to pay (greater than or equal to $19.99). Ah, but there was a queue at David Jones. There was one lady and a baby in a stroller (presumably hers), so there were two people but technically only one customer. I smiled at the baby. The baby smiled back. I smiled wider. The baby smiled back. The baby gurgled. I restrained myself from gurgling. “You’re so cute,” I thought, “But you are not as beautiful as a chicken.” And I recalled that chickens are actually smarter than neonates and then wondered whether the baby’s intellectual development had yet overtaken that of the average chicken. The mother smiled at me because she could not read my thoughts, offensive as they were to her progeny. I said to her, “He hasn’t flown the coop yet, has he?” She replied, “My child is a girl.”

I said to the lady at the counter, “Excuse me, but do you have the book Beautiful Chickens?”

“No sorry,” she said, “What’s it about?”

“It’s a book full of photos of chickens.”

And at this she laughed, not at me but with me, because we were sharing a moment – there I was reflecting on chickens, my new raison d’être, and there she was, reflecting on chickens as something cool that she had unwittingly overlooked for much of her life. We were close to but not quite kindred spirits. “Good luck finding it!” she said, and she bid me on my way.

I ordered it online. It will ship in 3-5 weeks.

Vice Chancellor Michael Spence.

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