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Roosting, not roasting 

Beyond the barnyard, it's a little know fact: Thanksgiving is a chicken's favorite holiday.

"Let the turkey do the star turn, just pass us the left over leftovers," they cluck, all the while keeping a low profile.

These days it's all about hunkering down in the coop. The chickens are all feathered up. No one's laying eggs--not enough sunlight. Like you and I, chickens want to sleep in and go to bed earlier in the darker days around the winter solstice.

A chicken's simple holiday wish? Find some straw, settle in for, oh say, three full moons, until the greens start appearing again. They pass the time by chasing away birds looking for cracked corn and kicking up the seeds from last month's post-Halloween pumpkin-smashing rave-up.

While I muse of nature and recycling, my uber-militant daughter disdains the chickens. For her, everything is political. "Look at them, will you? Our chickens are definitely Republicans. The coop is its own red state!" She rants with glee, "They're living an elitist lifestyle--the top 1 percent compared to the working chickens of the world. They're only concerned about their comfort. Everyone does everything for them."

Chickens were front page news in two different sections in the News & Observer one day this month. There was a cute reindeer on page two and a plague of locusts on page 10. City people care about chickens. The rights of in-town chickens might become the next big "moral values" hot-button voting issue.

"I was allowed to grow up with chickens. I think it shaped who I am as a person," expressed Richard Mullinax to the Durham City Council in his petition to allow his fowl within city limits. "Roaming Rooster Confounds City Council Members," boldly blared the Herald-Sun headline, when a few days later resident Mike Fishback complained about a renegade rooster in his Walltown neighborhood. Fishback implored, "I need to get some sleep. Please!" In a sidebar, the city's paper of record covered "other city council action": contracts, water and sewer assessments, park impact fees. Obviously Chicken Little concerns were the buzz.

It's quieter in the country. We shoveled and raked out the coop last month, never a popular chore. Compost, courtesy of those active poultry tractors, is already cooking in the garden. Last week (before the frost) we had huge volunteer tomato and squash vines moving across the mulch.

The coop committee's mid-November demands are few: fresh water, some grains, some greens, and this week, how about a side of cranberry sauce?

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