As a conscientious voter, I try to do my research before I fill in a single oval on my ballot. This year, the most challenging decisions for me were the two initiated measures for legalizing marijuana in South Dakota.
Full disclosure: I came of age during the Age of Aquarius. My hair was long and straight. I wore miniskirts, bell-bottom jeans, and a peace-sign necklace as big as a rodeo queen’s belt buckle. I knew at least four guitar chords in the key of C and all the words to “Blowin’ in the Wind.”
However, I never once used pot.
I still have no interest in using pot. At the same time, I think it’s idiotic to put people in jail for using it. At the same time, I think it probably has genuine medicinal value but tend to believe medicinal substances are best obtained through pharmacies. At the same time, I question the common sense of legalizing at the state level a substance that is still illegal under federal law.
You can see why I pondered so much over the pot proposals on the ballot. Until last week, when suddenly all became clear, and I made my decisions.
What happened was this: the city council approved the first reading of an ordinance to allow residents to raise chickens in their back yards.
There is a connection here. Really. Just stay with me for a minute.
My view on backyard chickens is straightforward—well, if it’s possible to have a straightforward view and roll your eyes at the same time. I consider eggs the foundation of a good breakfast, and I enjoy chickens fried, broiled, roasted, or in soup. Yet in their prefood state, I find chickens to be mean-spirited, irritating creatures with unpleasant hygiene habits. I would swear off omelets for good before I would ever install a chicken coop on my property.
I would also prefer that my next-door neighbors not raise chickens. Yet I really don’t care whether backyard chickens become legal, because I don’t see them ever becoming much of a problem.
Assuming the city does legalize backyard chickens, here is what I predict will happen: A relatively small number of residents will think, “Oh, wouldn’t it be nice to have a few little hens and all those nice fresh eggs.” Most of them won’t ever follow through. A minority will actually go so far as to construct a suitable chicken habitat and buy a handful of hens. A small percentage of those people will develop happy long-term relationships with chickens. The rest will decide having their own fresh eggs is not worth the amount of attention, labor, and chicken manure involved.
The end result? A bunch of unwanted hens, of which a few will find their way into stewpots and the rest will become a nuisance for the animal shelter. A handful of inhabited chicken coops, with numerous others recycled into garden sheds or playhouses. For those of us who aren’t fans of fowl, ultimately the whole thing will be no big deal.
Just as, for those of us who don’t much care, legalizing marijuana might turn out to be no big deal.
Of course, I could be wrong. It’s possible that either legalized backyard chickens or legalized backyard pot might become a big deal. Especially if enough people make the obvious (at least to me) connection between the two.
According to a friend of mine who once upon a time grew his own marijuana, grasshoppers love pot. If he touched them while they were on a plant, they wouldn’t jump or even flinch. They just hung on tight and kept on munching. They were the biggest, fattest, greenest grasshoppers he had ever seen.
Just picture all those happy little hash hoppers. Fat and lethargic. Filling, tasty, and easy to catch. Just imagine how tempting they would be to a chicken.
Not to mention how tempting they could be for a chicken owner with a little imagination. This is how it could work: You construct your city ordinance-compliant chicken enclosure. Right next to it, you plant your state law-compliant marijuana. Then you go catch yourself a nice little starter herd of grasshoppers and park them among your pot plants.
When the grasshoppers discover the delights of eating weed, and the chickens discover how easy it is to catch the happy hoppers, your work is done. You will have put the grass in grasshoppers. You will have provided your hens with free, locally sourced, “high” protein chicken feed.
You’ll end up with laid-back, if short-lived grasshoppers. Laid-back chickens who, contented and serene in their pen, will not disturb your neighbors or feel a need to try to cross the road. Laid-back neighbors who, happy with the special mellow yellow-yolked eggs you share, have no reason to complain about your chickens.
Right in your back yard, you will have created a little paradise of potted poultry. By taking the high road, you will have changed your little corner of the world. If you have a large enough yard and an enterprising spirit, you might take that change even further. Your little chicken coop could become the “Alice’s Restaurant” of “natural high” chicken feed. You could start a movement—city-wide, state-wide, even national. With this simple slogan: “For a happy henhouse—pot in every chicken.”