April 2, 2010
Posted by Susan Orlean
I’m happy to report that my trip to Manhattan to appear on “The Martha Stewart Show” with my chicken Tookie went off without incident. I worried every step of the way. I worried whether Tookie would like the car ride, and whether she’d be happy being in the television studio, and whether she’d act out in some wild chicken-y way on camera; I even worried whether, when she was back home with her flock, the other chickens would sense some fundamental change in her (exposure to the bright lights of New York City and the dazzle of television fame can do that) and, full of doubt and suspicion, turn on her—a sort of chicken version of “The Return of Martin Guerre.”
It turns out that Tookie is a trouper. She sat quietly in her crate on the ride down and in the nicely appointed Martha Stewart dining room, noshing happily on frozen corn kernels and flicking her head side to side each time a production assistant rushed in, waving microphones and headsets and show breakdown sheets.
The one moment that really unnerved me was when I walked out on the set and realized that there were several dozen chickens running around and sitting on audience members’ laps. Chickens, as a rule, are as cliquey as high-school girls, and are quite happy to tear to pieces an unfamiliar bird. The first time I introduced a new chicken into my flock, Tookie was the meanest of the mean girls, clucking angrily, making threats, and showing a lot of pointy beak. During my segment on the show, I sat with Tookie on my lap; there were a bunch of chickens scratching and chatting and making a fuss very near us, and, well within striking distance, a huge feathery Araucana lolling in Stewart’s lap. I could hardly breathe, wondering if Tookie would puff up and start pecking at the bird, or, worse, at Stewart. But miraculously, she sat regally and calmly through the segment. And better still, now that she’s home again, she has settled right back in with her fellow hens, and they with her, as if she had never been on network television at all.
Here’s Martha putting a chicken to sleep:
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