Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Finery for our fine feathered friends

When I’m out and about, I see plenty of dogs wearing clothing – mostly, based on my completely non-scientific survey – the decked-out pooches are French bulldogs and lapdogs. The big dawgs in the ‘hood seem to do better in the cold. That or might makes right, and they resist letting their owners dress them up. I’ve never met a pup who was too proud to beg, but I’ve known plenty who prefer not to become the object of potential ridicule.

None of the dog outfits I’ve seen look homemade, by the way – they’re definitely store bought.

I do know that there are also folks who dress their cats up, but I don’t see them out walking on Boston Common.

Until I saw an article in the Boston Globe, however, I was not aware that there’s such a thing as clothing for chickens.

I was aware that there are people who get together and craft up – knitting or crocheting – outfits for the needy. For years my mother and her cronies made blankies, sweaters, and bonnets for poor newborns. They took a look of pride in their work, and churned out all sorts of sets not just in pink and blue, but themed for the season. Late October outfits had jack-o-lanterns on them. Christmas meant red and green. And the lucky kiddoes born around St. Patrick’s Day got outfits covered in shamrocks.

A group of knitters in Milton, Mass. had been doing work that was very similar to the crafting of my mother’s crew: making their wares for need kids and craft fairs. But then they heard that some local chickens who lived in their ‘hood could use a little knitware: 

…especially a tiny rooster native to Malaysia named Prince Peep, who shivers in all New England seasons – [and] really could use some protection from the cold. [So] the plucky women hopped right on the chick-knit task.

“We are very anxious to help any community, including chickens,” said knitter Nancy Kearns. (Source: Boston Globe.)

I was not surprised to learn that the ladies found their patterns in England. After all, the Brits are known for their affection for members of the animal kingdom, not to mention their general eccentricities. And England can get pretty damp and chilly.

They translated it into American knitting jargon, and, in about a month, produced a dozen chicken sweaters in assorted sizes and colors.

The chickens live under some pretty good conditions – by chicken standards – at the Wakefield Estate, a non-profit that:

… holds various workshops in topics ranging from archaeology to mushroom growing, and enlists the nearby Thacher Montessori School to run the estate’s chicken coop as an ongoing lesson in animal care and business management.

I’m reading between the chicken-scratched lines here and guessing that the chickens are free range, not trapped in cages with their beaks cut off, not plumped up on breast-bloating steroids. Plus they’re being allowed to die a natural chicken death, and not murder on the assembling line on the way to becoming boneless, skinless breasts.  ryan_knit5_reg

The chickens at Wakefield could use the sweaters because some of them are imports.. Like Prince Peep. After all, there’s very little commonality between the climate of Malaysia and that of New England, even when we do get the odd and freakish 70 degree day in February. Plus they molt, which means thing can get pretty chill, wherever they come from.

Anyway, I got a real kick when I read about the chicken knitters.

There are, I’m sure, plenty of other chickens in need. So a shout out to the most talented knitter I know, my sister Kath, who packs a wonderful combination of technical skill, creativity, color sense, and over all good taste. (Not like chickens that taste good. I’m talking really good taste.) So how about it, Kath, I bet you could whip up a few really nifty chicken sweaters. Just sayin’….

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