I Publius: Chickens will track down ticks
Things have gone far enough! I say, change the laws, bring the chickens and the guinea hens out of the closet and protect the population. We are beset by a virtual epidemic of Lyme disease brought on by deer- and rodent-borne ticks. These ticks can cause debilitating sickness that can be very, very serious and difficult to treat. This is no laughing matter. No, sir, no ma’am.
The ticks drop onto the ground, we go for a walk, and then we are in for it. We exist in a near-paranoid state, searching our bodies for those telltale bull’s-eyes. I spend a lot of time asking Roselle, “Is this is a bull’s-eye?” She does the same with me. I’ll bet the tick inspection ritual has hit your house, too, right? Gotcha! The next person who runs for selectman on the Chicken Ticket will have my vote.
Along with many other towns, Great Barrington has outlawed chickens which is a whole different thing than outlaw chickens or chicken outlaws. Don’t you get it? Chickens are natural peckers. They peck here and there and everywhere and one of the things that chickens consider a great delicacy is — you guessed it — the tick! A very good friend who lived in my neighborhood had her chickens run out of town by some small-minded people who found the birds annoying. Sure enough, the head animal policeman showed up in our neighborhood and the chickens were confiscated! It is my definite impression that, from that day on, the tick population began to multiply. I tell you folks, Lyme disease is all around us. Every time you get down in the grass to play with your son or daughter or grandchildren or dog, you are in peril. You go into the garden and the little devils are laying in wait to get you.
What’s more, the noble chicken is an important part of our food supply. She lays eggs that are as fresh as you can get. For all of you who have been writing me about “eating local,” this is the ultimate argument. You go out and grab a few eggs, scramble them up and you have an important part of necessary protein in your diet. Some people eat the chickens, too.
If you don’t like chickens you can get some guinea fowl. They love to hunt and peck and they live in your trees, not a coop. They turn your place into a Charles Addams cartoon. It looks like Halloween all year long. What a gas! I know one guy who has just installed a flock of guinea hens that he bought on the Internet. He loves those fowls. They are doing the job.
The problem has gotten so serious that the whole criminal justice system is now endangered. Trust me, in my neighborhood we all live where there used to be farms. The chickens were here way before most of us people were. Why does The Crown have the right to expel our chickens? I believe that chickens have rights, too. Having just read the Declaration of Independence on July 4, I’m here to tell you that when the government treads on our inalienable rights, the people and the chickens have a right — nay! — an obligation to rebel.
Of course, there are attendant issues. If we change the stupid rule and allow folks to have chickens, will someone bring in a rooster? Roosters make a lot of noise. It doesn’t bother me because I am up way before the roosters are, but there are some indolent people who want to spend a good deal of their lives in bed. OK, I’m willing to compromise. We make a rule stipulating “No Roosters!” But to be fair to the chickens, how about an exception for conjugal visits? I mean, if we can have them in prisons, why not follow suit here?
I actually raised chickens one summer at the Bronx House Camps in nearby Copake, N.Y. It turned out that the chickens would lay their eggs all over the place and do certain business in places where you were sure to step. Yes, you have to feed the chickens and you have to build them a coop. But, hey, isn’t a little bit of inconvenience worth it to avoid the accursed Lyme disease?
We pay a lot of taxes, particularly in Great Barrington. I say The Crown has gone too far. Chickens may well be the catalyst for the long simmering revolution. Up with chickens, down with ticks.
Originally Published in the Berkshire Eagle, 6/11/09