AOH :: CHKNSTRY.TXT|
Funny file on the chicken and the bureaucrat
The Chicken and the Beaurocrat
by Lorne Strider
(This article was written in 1980 and was widely circulated. It is re-
produced here for your amusement)
It all began one fine morning in Long Valley, April 1st, 2001. A friend
dropped by and left me with a laying hen in a cage. What a nice gift! I
relished the thought of fresh eggs for breakfast. How grand! Well, first to
build a nice little house for her.
Dust a-flying, I hammered and sawed as the coop took shape. It was not
your ordinary hen coop, but a fine and royal miniature victorian finished off
with shiny yellow paint with white trim. The straw-filled egg basket was
Just as I was putting the last touches on the weather vane on the roof, I
heard an ominous rumble in the sky. Frop-frop-frop! In whirled the patrol
helicopter of the County Land Use Enforcement Commission! The noisy craft
shuddered to a halt right in my flower garden, its wind blowing the landscape
every which way. Before the dust settled, out jumped an enforcement agent be-
decked in the splendid uniform of the Enforcement Patrol.
He swaggered over, magnum and stick on belt, notebook in hand, and boomed;
"Looks like several crimes, misdemeanors, violations, infractions and non-
conformances have occured here!" I trembled in shock, "I...I..." "Anything
you say will be used against you!", he declared as he wrote furiously in his
notebook. "But it's just a little chicken house," I cried! I saw that further
protest was to no avail and watched with dismay as the agent chronicled my
crimes in his report.
"You are charged by the people of the state with the following
infractions: 1) no permit for farm animal, 2) no permit for farm dwelling, 3)
no egg productions permit, 4) no State or County Agricultural Clearance Slip,
5) no permit from County Farm Bureau, 6) improper zoning, 7) non-conformance
with the Great Plan, 8) Health and Safety violations, 9) no permit from Coastal
Commission, 10) setbacks..." and on he droned.
The burly enforcement agent handed me my copy of the indictment and nailed
a giant red proclamation to my hen house. You are in a heap of trouble friend,
better go see the authorities and clear your name".
As the noise of the department helicopter faded I sat contemplating my
predicament. Being a law abiding type, I didn't know what else to do but go
and apply for the necessary permits.
THE NEXT DAY
What a place the Bureau of Permits was. Vast halls and corridors.
Seemingly hundreds of windows with busy clerks and long lines of people. I was
not the only one in search of the proper permits.
After milling through the crowd a while I found the farm animal section,
subsection chickens, and fell in at the end of the line. Two and a half hours
later, I reached the window to find that it was the chicken window alright, but
only for permits for 11 to 25 chickens. The window for 1 to 10 chickens was
further down the great hall.
After reaching the correct window, the one for 1 to 10 chickens, I again
joined the end of the line. A half hour later as I reached the window, the
clerk slammed down the gate and closed for the day.
Well alright, back again first thing in the morning. This time I reached
the window and filled out the proper forms in triplicate. This only took 45
Next was the Hall of Building Supervision. This office demanded blue
prints to scale, site plans, engineering reports, materials list, contractors
ID number, nine copies of all. Plus copies of all permits issued by other
And so it went, from window to window, bureau to bureau, commissioner to
commissioner. Egg Board, Agricultural Board, Non-conformance board, and the
The zoners were the most difficult. I had to get on a list for a hearing
and the agenda was booked for six months. It seems I was in a zone that
allowed 11 to 25 chickens. The variance would allow me to keep just one
chicken. They claimed it would take even longer to get my property rezoned for
After posting bail at the Bureau of Land Use Enforcement (BLUE) I began
the long process of permit approval at the Office of the Great Plan. There in
the quiet and reverent halls the dedicated technicians and priests were hard at
their tasks. The Great Planners were designing a better world for us all. I
hoped there would be room for my hen in this brave new world.
I was determined not to be discouraged. I was going to persevere! So on
I went, to the Archetectural Board, the bearded and bespectacled Archeological
Commissioners from the university, Air and Water Board, Siesmic Safety Bureau.
Then, at last, the Peoples Commission on Good Taste.
The Commissioners of Good Taste were relentless in their zeal to do their
duty. Such dedicated civil servants I have never seen. They scrutinized my
application forms, maps and drawings. They made numerous field trips for on-
site inspections of my little hen house. After several sessions I agreed to
compromise. They would grant their approval if I would re-paint the hen house
brown with yellow trim.
So I re-painted, covering over the offensive yellow. The chicken didn't
seem to notice.
July 2010, and the last permit arrived in the mail! Aha! I persevered to
the last and won! In this mood of jubilation I rushed out back to show the hen
the pile of completed permits. But, alas, as I approached the fading brown hen
house the chicken was lying on its back, lifeless. Its wings were folded
neatly across its breast in tranquil repose, a smile on its face, possibly
reflecting visions of that happy barn yard in the sky.
She was a good hen, one egg a day for nine years. Little did my chicken
know she lived her whole life illegally and in violation. An outlaw to the
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