Today, a slow rain has settled over the city. Street lights are still on in the dim, drizzly daylight. I pop my umbrella as I step out of the car, then lean back in to grab the handle of the bucket and gently swing it up onto my arm. I’m at my brother’s house, bringing my offering of food scraps to their chickens. The steps to their porch are wet, the trees hanging over the path brush the top of my umbrella as I pass. My attention is drawn down by Mila, the centenarian cat welcoming me with her rib-rattling meow. With no hands free, I babble to Mila some, then continue to navigate around to the back garden where the chooks are all huddled together under a small shelter.
Rain or shine, those chooks know when they’re about to get a treat and they express it for the world to hear. The slow bok-bok-boks build slowly to a gallop, as they straighten themselves to the point of almost tipping backwards, and parade out into the rain. Their heads begin bobbling back and forth, back and forth, rhythmically in sync with their now marching feet, striding out for the world to see. “Now is my time!”, they seem to announce to the world. On this rainy day, there is not the usual dust-storm this procession normally produces, but I admire their commitment nonetheless. I make a couple of clucking noises myself as I turn to climb the few stairs to their enclosure. I squat alongside the fence and pop the lid off the bucket. Right on cue, they lower their heads some and pick up the pace, soon galloping, skipping circles, wings slightly raised for effect (or could be balance). As I stand and raise the bucket above the fence, there is a final crescendo of squawks greeting the moment. I tip the bucket over the top, narrowly missing one of the brood who’s a little carried away in the moment, a little late to clear out from the dumping space. Before the last remnants have slid from the somewhat soggy bucket, the hyper-clucking ceases in an instant and heads are down picking through the feast for the tastiest morsels. I stand and appreciate this moment of feasting, content to see our waste go to such good use.
I reach into the nesting box to retrieve two eggs – more than fair compensation – and listen to the pitter-patter of the rain on my umbrella as I gather my now empty bucket and head back to the car. Mila rasps out a wheezy farewell, still unrequited by my egg, umbrella and bucket carrying hands, once again only rewarded with fond mutterings. I head back down the puddled steps to wrangle myself and the stuff back into the car, trying to stay dry.