@DC Harrell, 01.25.13

CoopThis is what comes of bad ratios.

How many times have I explained Coop to a new keeper? It’s six hens to one rooster in one pen. They lay. They establish pecking order without sacrificing Little.

I told the novice to bond the chickens, to build Coop. I thought she had.

I saw her draw the lines, pressing chicken faces into the dust, beaks outstretched, sliding her finger in a furrow 12 inches from pointy heads to the center, fouls waiting until their lines were crossed. Chicken hypnosis. Coop.

I warned her not to create cannibals. “Bake the eggshells,” I said. “Crush them to powder with a rolling-pin.” Add too little to the feed and their eggs crack, exposing children. Add too much and they’ll develop at taste for offspring. Bad ratio, bad Coop.

I gave her Storey’s Guide. The formula’s four square feet per bird. I thought she understood. I’ve seen grown men weep acid from chicken-shit in too-close Coop.

It’s science. Kelly criteria and all that. If you want eggs, you need Coop. Too much Coop and this is what happens.

First sign is names. Granny names like Henrietta. Then descriptors: Little, Princess. Then randoms: Filet-o-Fish. And in the end, there’s always a Loco, Verruckt, Gek. Crazy in any language. A keeper names her chickens and you know, you just know: too much Coop.

Second sign is rage. No rooster, no Coop, no eggs: keeper-rage. Too many hens, too much Coop, Little’s head-feathers get eaten by everyone else, hen-rage, no eggs.

Final straw’s the shit. Burns the inside of your nose. Makes your eyes run like a bad gasket. Slip on a crap-deep floor just once, much too much Coop. Plus no eggs. Happens every time.

Ten heads. No chickens.