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Prologue | I Paint Chickens

Prologue

No one knows who drove into Stanley Park that June night to dump four roosters, in a cardboard box, beside Pipeline Road. People leave unwanted pets–cats, dogs, rabbits–in the park, all the time. But those four birds escaped from their box to crow in their first dawn as wild roosters.

I named them after their colours: Red, Black and Brown. The fourth rooster was adopted early on by the park’s maintenance crew, who called him Rodney.

Over the summer, I got to know their habits. Mornings, they foraged patiently in the undergrowth. The afternoons were for dust baths and for sunning themselves, wiggling their toes and mewing, as if to say, “Now this is living!”

I’d been painting hens and roosters for years, but before I met Red, Black, Brown and Rodney, all of the chickens I’d known had been kept in coops, shut in at night to protect them from predators. The Stanley Park roosters ran free all day and stayed out all night. We know chickens as domestic animals, but Red, Black, Brown and Rodney were closer to eagle than they were to the beagle.

To be continued…

Red

Brown

Black

Rodney

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“Painting chickens is like painting traffic: you pick out a chicken and wait for it to stop. The more I paint chickens, the more I know that they are each and every one unique. My chickens have personalities, and they enjoy life.”

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