Things About A Chicken

Juniper the Chicken - Belmont Goats

I am not a chicken fan. Not, that is, unless it is breaded and deep fried, or sautéed in butter, or slathered in Alfredo sauce. So I guess what I mean is that I am not a fan of chickens that are alive. They smell weird. They’re dirty, and I have residual nightmares of the chicken coop of my childhood home from whence proliferated numerous horrors. To this day I cannot eat brown eggs. Irrational? Yes. Do I care? No. 

But today I heard a chicken story - a story about a chicken, that nearly moved me to tears. I have a couple of friends whom I admire greatly that are chicken lovers. We’re talking chickens on the dining room table that are still alive and will not, under any circumstances be eaten by any one, ever. Chickens who have sweaters knitted for them and sport names like Frida, Russell Wilson, Bilbo Schwaggins, Betty and Bacon. (Because Bacon and Eggs, get it?) Anyway, these chicken-loving friends of mine have tried very hard to humanize the dirty, feathery, beady eyed little producers of all manner of grossness but have been largely unsuccessful with me - or so I thought, until today, when I got caught up in the story of Juniper.

Juniper is a hen. A garden variety, brown and black speckledy hen. She was part of the menagerie at this place in Portland, Oregon called the Belmont Goats. On their website, Juniper the hen is described thusly:

“Birthday unknown. Joined in March of 2014. We have 14 pet goats; they have 1 pet hen.”

Leave it to Portland to have a goat farm/petting zoo/therapy center in the middle of the city. The Belmont Goats is all of that and more, boasting a herd of 14 goats and one hen. Until today.

Sometime, in the middle of last night, someone broke into the fenced area that is the Belmont Goat Field and made off with Juniper. With the hen. Because as weird as Portland is, it’s also still Portland. A call for help went out in the morning when the fowl play (ahem…) was discovered, and all of the Facebook Lands were bereft. Juniper became an instant celebrity. Even I, the un-liker of chickens, especially plain brown speckledy ones, was moved to the verge of tears.

“Folks, someone broke into the Belmont Goats field next to Wattles Boys and Girls Club on 92nd & Harold last night. All of the goats are present and accounted for and don't seem any worse for wear but Juniper is missing. Juniper is our very loved, very patient and friendly chicken. She sleeps in the barn with the goats.” the volunteers who take care of the Belmont Goats, or more appropriately, are taken care of by said bovidae specimens, spread the news far and wide, and if social media gets around anywhere in the world, it gets around Portland, and quickly.

The fence assailant/hen-napper left a donation of human excrement at the park, which I would assume some forensically trained hipster was hot on the brink of testing for DNA, but thanks to the power of the Facebook grapevine, and Lord knows how many shares later, one of the volunteers' neighbors found the chicken at a transit station more than three miles from the Goat Field.

If I felt foolish that I nearly cried when I heard that the goat-pet hen was lost, and that the worst was assumed of her fate, then it's safe to say that I was utterly embarrassed by the tears of joy that literally overtook me when someone posted a picture of Juniper on someone's lap in somebody's car, homeward bound and safe. It’s a chicken. But her bright, beady little eye stared defiantly off into whatever direction it is that a chicken looks, scoffing at the mischief maker(s) who would have been her undoing. Not this hen. Not in this town. Not a chance. Juniper just knew, strutting in that odd chickeny fashion across the lightrail platform a jillion miles from her 14 goats, she knew that one of her many friends would find her. And they did. 

I am not a fan of chickens. Or goats, in particular. But I will be watching the Belmont Goats and their social media just in case that DNA comes back and the chicken snatching pooper is brought to justice. And hooray for Portland. Thanks for making me feel like there is still magic in the world. You stay weird. Welcome home, Juni.

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