By: Kate Gruetter
Six chickens, two pigsize bunnies, two indoor cats, and a feral cat. My task over break was caring for this flock of creatures. A mess in and of itself, the addition of crazy storms, an occasional dusting of snow, and freezing temperatures exacerbated the perils of my job.
Before I tell my story, I want to preface it with the fact that I did not choose this lifestyle. Originally, I thought I was agreeing to look after two cats. Instead, I got roped into caring for two extremely hyperactive kittens and an entire petting zoo.
I thought I knew chickens laid a lot of eggs going into this venture. I mean, that’s their thing, right? Well, I was not prepared for the sheer magnitude of eggs chickens are capable of laying. A day of shirking my egg collecting responsibilities spelled doom; I had to take three trips from their pen to the house, arms full of eggs and heart heavy. Eggs weren’t my only challenge with these birds, however: I also almost lost a chicken. It was a dark, dreary, and fairly wet evening, and upon stumbling into the chicken’s hutch, I spotted only five feathered animals. I was distraught: where was the sixth chicken? Turns out, not far away at all. While the other chickens chose to brave the questionable weather in the comfort and safety of their indoor shed, this adventurous hen braved the weather in the outdoor pen.
Now you’d think the bunnies would be the easiest part. While you’d be correct, that’s only due to the sheer difficulty of caring for the other animals. Because, just like everything else in this story, the bunnies were . . . odd. To begin, they had a slightly troublesome obsession with my ankles. Every time I turned around to change their water or give them a scoop of food, I found myself nearly stepping on a floppy-eared critter. The rabbits also lived in a hole under their pen, which I was convinced would flood from all of the rain, drowning the helpless mammals. Thankfully, that did not happen (on my watch).
The rain complicated this already concerning cacophony of critters significantly. I woke up countless times each night, worried that lightning had struck a stray chicken or a rabbit had somehow drowned since I’d left. Of course, none of these things happened, but they haunted my peace of mind constantly.
Though the experience was definitely chaotic, I can’t say I wouldn’t do it again. Constantly telling my friends I was feeding chickens and sending them photos of eggs laid was one of the highlights of my break, even if I had to brave scary storms and blizzard warnings while doing it.