I’ve been taking care of chickens for the last couple of weeks, and I’ve learned several things:
Chickens are smarter than you think. How hard can it be to get three chickens into their coop in a tiny, fenced backyard? Plenty hard. It’s like getting two-year-old triplets to bed – you just get two into bed and the third one bolts (I babysat for triplets once). By the time you catch that one, the other two have disappeared… The only solution seems to be luring them with dried mealworms — for hens that is, not kids. Just give up with the kids, turn on a Disney video, and eventually their parents come home and it’s their problem!
Chickens enjoy hide and seek in the dark. However, you always have to be It, and the concepts of the woodpile being “out of bounds” or the game being over escapes them. They also do not function well in the presence of flashlights. Flashlights shut down their brains and cause their bones to completely dissolve, which admittedly does make them easier to catch. Thus did Colonel Sanders discover Boneless Chicken?
It’s not a good idea to walk around in Chicken Territory wearing flipflops. Especially in the dark. This is because chickens are related to dinosaurs, and chicken poop is roughly the same size as T. Rex poop. Eeww.
Fresh eggs are magical. They are luminescent, warm, perfectly shaped. I almost feel guilty about eating them, but not quite.
Chickens purr. Seriously. If you just sit in a lawnchair and listen while they prowl and poke around in the grass, they make this low throaty purring sound. They do! However, chickens are way more trouble than cats, and you probably wouldn’t want one sitting in your lap for very long. It’s those dinosaur genetics again.
Chickens are fun to draw. Feathers are miracles of engineering and pattern and color. Combs and wattles are hysterical – just touch one and try not to laugh!
I love backyard chickens. I love the way they brag when they lay an egg. However, I’m pretty sure I am over wanting to raise my own backyard chickens. I’ll just be content to take care of my neighbor’s chickens. My husband heartily endorses this conclusion!
"Chicken Textures", mixed media copyright Kerry McFall
Over the Fourth of July weekend, we’ve been helping take care of a neighbor’s hens. We’ve learned several things: Chicken poop is hard to get off your shoes. Chickens are about as easy to herd as cats. Chickens do not like firecrackers. Chickens do not tolerate attempts to pet their glorious feathers.
So you learn something new every day! But these chickens were quite photogenic, and before the firecrackers started exploding right outside their fence, they were quite curious about someone who was silly enough to be wandering around the yard pointing a shiny little box at them. Not wanting to really get down on their level, what with the poop and all, I have some rather odd perspectives. This one is my favorite, but the resident art critic merely said, “That chicken needs a mouth.” Sigh… not everyone appreciates unique cropping and perspective.
When you begin to sketch feathers and wattles, the lizard connection is inescapable. The feather shapes overlap, like scales, making wonderful patterns even without the addition of the colors and textures of the feathers themselves. Even on a very plain hen like this, the colors are iridescent. And on the red skin (combs and wattles – and yes, I always have to Google the words for those because I missed Chicken 4H as a kid) the patterns are quite pronounced – diamonds, spirals, stripes – if you just look at it long enough and try not to acknowledge that the skin on my own hands is beginning to show that same “crepey” texture. Ew. I also noticed that the color of her eye is exactly the color of the egg yolk of a fresh free-range egg. Cool.
Tracy’s maill order chicks arrived about 10 days ago – talk about modern day miracles! The post office calls her as soon as they’re in town, and there they are in their little shipping box, all cozy and warm and intact. She does her Chicken Lady magic to be sure they aren’t dying of thirst and/or constipated, puts them in their new cardboard box home with special feeders and lights, and they begin their little Dance of New Life. They cheep indignantly for no apparent reason, they peck at invisible things. They scurry about in a panic when a camera invades their space. They fall asleep standing up, and s-l-o-w-l-y tip over onto their beaks… it’s a hoot!
I drew this one from my photo taken when they were just past the fluffy stage and not quite into the Ugly Pinfeathers Stage, although you can see by her tail that it’s almost Pinfeather Time. She still has remnants of the little “egg tooth” on top of her beak. I’ll have to ask Tracy what breed this is – I call them Chipmunk Chickens, but I’m pretty sure the real name is something vaguely Welsh or British like Easter Egg Orphington or Buff Barred Linkhamshire.
When she grows up, this chick will be moved to Tracy’s backyard, where she will reside in sumptuous luxury in the Palais des Poulets – that’s French for Chicken Palace. I’m sure their coop is without equal in the world of Backyard Chickendom. I’ll have sketch it one of these days!
The quilt analogy in the background is reminiscent of some of my very early chicken-related art, which you can see in my Gallery of Works. I didn’t realize how close the colors were to those pieces until I just now looked up the link. Odd.
"Strut", 16 x 20", $250, mixed media on canvas by Kerry McFall
We just finished hanging “Call and Response III” at the LaSells Stewart Center Giustina Gallery on the OSU campus – whew, that’s a lot of work… but so worth it. I love the way the “pods” go up, and it’s fascinating to be a part of the group dynamics. Over the course of the eight hours we spent together, we each stepped in to specific tasks and roles, eventually evolving into quite an efficient team. Now, tired but happy, we are looking forward to Monday night’s reception. And we’re also pretty pumped to think that Michelle Obama, and any number of dignitaries will very likely see our works while she’s in town for the OSU graduation ceremonies – woohoo!
The rooster piece pictured above is not technically part of the Call and Response suite, but it’s also being shown at the gallery. It’s my newest work, incorporating a “coloring page” design from last year. It’s fun, but looking at all of our work in the gallery, it occurs to me that nothing I do is subtle. My colors are always saturated, vivid, perhaps even LOUD. Maybe I’ll make that a goal, to see if I can tone it down a bit in the next few months. Then again, I like loud!
I’m having fun with coloring pages again! This intense hen was sketched from a photo by Aaron Jay, he of recent duck acquisition fame. The lines were simple enough to make a fun coloring page. But once I got started doodling around with feather patterns, the lines got more and more complex… and the colors got a little wild. But it was fun! So here’s the more complicated coloring page as well:
I think it is one of the wonders of our time that you can order chicks from Back East, and they arrive in the mail alive and cheeping! And adorable. My favorites were the ones who looked like chipmunks, stripes starting at their eyeline and going all the way down their fuzzy backs.
Lesson from this sketch: just like baby people, baby chickens do not come with necks. I didn’t get the head close enough to the body… next time!