Friday, February 3, 2012

Getting Up with the Chickens

Sometime in the recent past a truck carrying live chickens turned over on U.S. 90 where it runs through Ocean Springs, Mississippi. Crying, "We're free! We're free!" (or possibly, "Kut! Kadawkit!") the birds fled the scene of the accident and settled all over town.

Like many another civilized municipality, Ocean Springs has an ordinance against keeping farm animals, so the animals were forced to keep themselves. Some ran in traffic, putting an end to their struggles. Some took to hanging out on Government Street, begging for handouts from the merchants, living on crumbs from the donut shop, ignoring people's complaints about their droppings. Others penetrated deep into the residential neighborhoods and found homes in bushes, under porches, anywhere there was shelter and protection from the cats and the zealous city government, there to increase and multiply as best they could.

I first became aware of the chicken phenomenon last week on a visit to my mother-in-law. I woke up before dawn the way one does sometimes and noticed that Harold's breathing sounded funny. "That's strange," I thought. "He seems to be wheezing. He never did that before." But as time went on the wheezes increased in number and direction. At last they could clearly be heard to be coming in through several different windows. Not Harold, then. Roosters. "Erka-erka-wheeze." Pretty close to "cock-a-doodle-doo."

Feral chickens are roaming Ocean Springs! What does this mean? Some say it's good for the tourist trade, making the town more like Key West. Some say it reminds them of their grandmothers, who always kept chickens. Those folks reminisce fondly about the ways their grandmothers used to kill their chickens, sometimes by wringing their necks with a casual flick of the wrist, sometimes by cutting their feathery heads off and letting them run around the yard till they dropped.

I like that the roosters crow just before dawn. That way I know to get up if I'm not asleep.

There are those in Ocean Springs who abhor the chickens, emblems of hated rusticity, spoilers of the polished, upscale, artistic image of the new Ocean Springs. One of them is a city alderman, pledged to get rid of the chickens. But most of the townsfolk view the chickens philosophically. Because that's what the Gulf Coast is all about. They take what comes, chickens, tourists, hurricanes, aldermen, and they make the best of it. Let the good times roll.

Here in the Northeast, maybe even here in Lambertville, if a truckload of chickens got loose you could hear the screams all the way to Ocean Springs, and they wouldn't be coming from the chickens. Call my lawyer! Sue! Sue!

Kate Gallison


  1. If this happened in my area in NYC the phone calls to the Mayor wd burn up the wires!!! tjs

  2. Delightful take on chickens and roosters rampant, Kate. Having killed a chicken or two in my day (the ax the means of dispatch), and awakened in police cars to the cry of the rooster, you brought a happy tear to my eye. I'm with you: give the fowl a break.
    Bob K.