People, when they find out I now have chickens, ask, “Why?” Some want to know if we are getting ready to go off the grid. Those who ask that don’t really know my family at all. We are the most “on the grid” people ever. One person asked if the price of eggs was just too much. Ha ha. No.
What I tell people is that having chickens is just a bit of nonsense. I think we all need just a bit of nonsense in our lives, something we do just for fun. My husband built us a splendid, and super cute, chicken coop. I added the curtains inside to ramp up the cuteness. Chickens do not need curtains. All chickens really need is food, water, shelter and protection from the many predators that also like the taste of chicken.
I will admit that having chickens has revealed a few things to me. Sayings that I have heard all my life now make sense. For example, my mother would say the phrase “mad as a wet hen”. I found out one extremely hot day, when I sprayed my chickens with the water hose in an attempt to cool them off, they really don’t like to be wet. Mad hens, they were.
As I watch my chickens scratch around in the dirt and see the markings they leave behind, I understand clearly when someone’s poor handwriting is called “chicken scratch”. Several doctors I have worked with come to mind…
With the exception of bugs, my chickens are afraid of everything. It’s why we call scared people “chicken”. I tossed a pinecone into the chicken run yesterday just to amuse them, and they were terrified of it. I stood watching and listening to them cluck at each other, obviously nominating who would be the one to go in and check out this odd item. Generally, it’s the top chicken that does these things, but since the pecking order isn’t quite finalized they played the chicken version of “not it”.
Speaking of pecking order, flocks of chickens do establish a pecking order to establish… order. It can seem a bit mean on the part of the chickens, well the ones at the top anyway, as the order really is established by pecking. The final elections are still pending, but it’s looking like my daughter’s chicken, Penelope, is currently in the lead with the best polling numbers. My daughter says she is not surprised, she has groomed Penelope for leadership since she hatched and arrived in our mail.
And speaking of “hen pecked”, that’s another chicken truism that is clearly demonstrated by the chickens. In the evenings, I put my leopard print rubber boots on (Just because I am a chicken keeper doesn’t mean I don’t have style), and step inside the run. I stay still for just a few minutes so the chickens get used to me being there, and become convinced that I might not eat them.
Chickens, for all their fear, are curious creatures. It doesn’t take long before they are inching closer and closer to me. They have keen eyesight and notice if I have a stray string or whatever on me. Buttons and other shiny things are also so alluring. Before I know it, I am being hen pecked. At that point I shoo them away with threats of chicken for dinner.
Yesterday evening, I watched as our chickens settled in for the night. Inside the coop we have placed roosting bars. These are posted up high enough that the birds have to fly up to them. It makes them feel safe to sleep high up off the ground and away from potential predators. Our coop is completely secure from predators, but try telling the hens. The hens all want to sleep on the highest roost. And there is plenty of room for all of them there. Only no one hen wants to be on the end.
The first hen will fly up and position herself on one end of the roost next to the coop wall. Then the others will follow, lining up along the roost… until the final hen realizes she’s on the end, and the most vulnerable in that position. That hen will then attempt to climb over or slide around (on a roost mind you) to find a spot somewhere in the middle. It’s kind of like my kids in the movie theater, or church. There’s lots of clucking, wing flapping, feather flying, and falling off the roost going on. I watched the comedy show for about fifteen minutes before deciding I could be out there another hour before they settled in for the night.
I have discovered that we are not so different from chickens. We are often afraid. We don’t like feeling vulnerable. We need to find our place in a community. We are even capable of stepping on, or knocking others off the “roost” in order to find our own security.
I’ve learned a lot about chickens from my chickens, but I’m learning a lot about people, too. Keeping chickens is nonsense, learning to live peaceably in our people flocks, is not. We were made to live in community… but we really shouldn’t peck at each other.
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Romans 12: 9-18