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Letter: The Reality of Backyard Chickens

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I thoroughly enjoyed Melissa Scott Sinclair's article "Unplucked". I grew up on a farm with chickens, a flock of leghorns for egg and meat production and a small flock of exotics that my mother considered pets. Some of the exotics were mean as snakes, but mom loved them.

She would have appreciated Melissa's unusual mix of realism (they smell, they're destructive, they're loud) and her genuine love for the birds. She would have agreed on all points but also appreciated Melissa's respect for these disagreeable-yet-somehow-loveable critters.

Mom named all her Rhode Island Reds and they came when called, but they also terrorized my Pomeranian, Cubby. He was the same color as the hens and a little bit smaller. Once when we were visiting Missouri from Richmond, he got caught in the middle of the flock as the birds fed on the cracked corn my mother was throwing out. I couldn't find him and he didn't come when I called. I finally spotted him in the midst of the flock, sitting as still as he could and rolling his eyes stealthily from side to side as if to say, "Help, I'm being held hostage in a flock of big, mean chickens." I finally asked mom to move the flock away and she moved down the hill trailing cracked corn and a flock of red hens behind her.

The chickens moved on, but it was a full five minutes before Cubby dared to move. I gave him some bits of leftover fried chicken to console him.

Elaine Lidholm
Director of Communications
Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services

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