I got caught on the phone yesterday with seven-year-old Cosette. I called to see how her mother was feeling, as she had been sick for a few days, but I never did get to speak to her. Once Cosette answers, talking to anyone else in the house is not an option. You can either settle in for the duration or hang up (assuming you have an excuse she’ll accept) and try again later when she may be otherwise occupied, perhaps in telling her brothers what’s what. I had some time to kill, so I let her carry on.
Lately Cosette has been concentrating her efforts on getting some chickens to raise in the backyard, so as to provide the family with fresh eggs daily and fried chicken on an occasional basis. Her father, who grew up in the country, and her mother, who is severely ornithophobic but a real trooper, are indulging her in this pursuit, despite the fact that they live in a crowded St. Paul suburb where you’d think there’d be better zoning restrictions.
I have to say Cosette knows more about the habits of chickens and the perils of owning them than I have gleaned in a lifetime. Her father will construct a chicken coop this fall, she says, with the goal of purchasing about ten baby chicks next spring. However, the instructions for building it are woefully lacking, so he has some research to do.
The chicks will have to stay in the basement until they are old enough to face the elements. Her mother is not pleased with this arrangement, but Cosette assures me that Mom won’t have to do a thing as she and five-year-old Bret Jr. will take care of all the chicks’ needs. This includes going into the basement every hour and squeezing them so that they don’t get pasty butt.
I had never heard of pasty butt, but I’ve since learned it is a very real affliction wherein poop dries around the chick’s “vent area” creating a seal that fresh poop cannot breach. The cure, according to Cosette, is to squeeze the chick until the poop comes out. Now I have not attempted to assay the validity of this claim. God help the innocent, that’s all I can say.
Assuming the chicks make it through this ordeal, when they are four or five weeks old they will be moved outdoors. This doesn’t mean they’re out of the woods, however, as Cosette has learned a coyote was recently spotted in the neighborhood. Said coyote has, in fact, killed all the neighbor’s chickens. (Yes, it is a neighborhood already rife with chickens.) As there was no roof on their pen, the coyote was able to jump in and then…hen havoc. The neighbors had to buy more chickens.
Okay, this next part is a little shifty, but I’m going to tell it just as it was told to me. I asked Cosette if she wasn’t worried about Ursa, their beleaguered dog, with a coyote running around. She said she has a plan for that. She is going to dig a hole in the backyard with a ramp that runs through the house and up to another hole in the roof. Then, aided by a “machine” she has yet to build, she will “launch” either Ursa or the coyote (this part was a little vague) into the ramp and out the hole in the roof, to what end I’m not sure.
Frankly, I think she was just adlibbing by this point. If you don’t cut her off, she will continue embellishing with information only she can comprehend. I said I had to go start dinner. Cosette said, okay, but to call her back, as there is a lot I don’t know and she needs to bring me up to speed. I can hardly wait.
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