The Wisdom of Chickens
By Tammy Barron ~
“Google, why are my chickens going bald?” “Google, how do you give a lamb an enema?” “Google, are carnivorous sheep a thing?” These are not even the weirdest questions I have turned to the internet to answer. No matter how many farm projects I get into, animals I tend, fences I mend, or poop I scoop, I seem to be fighting a learning curve all the way. With virtually no country living background (literally zero), I constantly turn to others for guidance. Without My F-I-L, Big Mike, or blessed Google my farm would have crumbled long ago. Ironically however, this city girl has discovered profound insight into my life in the most unexpected place: the chicken coop. Who knew these awkward feathered creatures are sages steeped in wisdom? So while I may not be an authority on farming success, I can surely share with you the universal truths according to my chickens.
Use your wings and fly
Chickens are the goofiest creatures, with spindly legs touting fat bottoms. They have little dominion in elegance and ingenuity, but that doesn’t keep them from soaring (flapping in a falling direction) when I come down the lane. They flutter from their perches with alacrity, jubilant for gifts from the kitchen. You could never convince them that chickens can’t fly, as their wings spring on air and they bounce front in line. Hens don’t pause to consider how ill built they are for flight. They spread their wings and aim for the sky. Reach high for your goals; your only limits are the ones you impose on yourself.
Avoid being sidetracked by shiny things
On summer days, I am often tinkering around the farm in flip flops. This is not ideal attire when hanging about the coop, because the girls will rid me of my dazzling pedicure in seconds. I will frantically toss scratch and kitchen scraps for them to no avail. They want the latest Chick Flick Cherry or Red Hot Rio from the salon. While I’m hopping foot to foot darting wildly in circles, my rooster is casually taking the food for himself. Try not to allow yourself to be wooed by the newest, shiniest, expensive gadgets or wares out there. The truth is our needs have very little to do with this fabrication of the American dream. Keep your priorities authentic, and your life will be fulfilling.
Fences are lifesavers
Sadly, I have lost several clutches of hens to predators. Coyotes, dogs, foxes, hawks, and the occasional opossum have all been reminders of the brutal food chain for a simple chicken. They really are pathetically defenseless, and who knew Rome was such a hot zone? While discreetly hiding evidence of the latest massacre before the kids came home from school, I reluctantly concluded that free range of the pasture was not in the best interest of the chickens. So we built a covered run and stocked it with toys and swings, like a poultry daycare center. We haven’t lost a hen since. Without boundaries, we may find ourselves consumed by work, relationships, or self-doubt.
Belt out your egg song
The late morning will herald triumph in the coop. Someone just laid the most fantastic egg that has ever been ever. She will squawk, cluck, and chirp announcing to the world how amazing she is. Ego soaring, with pride of a day’s job well done, she struts and bebops about as the others rush to circle around in elated congratulations. Be proud of your accomplishments; they rejuvenate your spirit between failures.
Don’t let rainy days get you down
Even on the nastiest wet winter day the chickens are out scratching the earth with muddy feet and wind ruffled feathers. They may squeak irritably when the wind snaps through, but bad weather will not keep them from their work in the yard. Without a doubt if the hen stays inside to feel sorry for herself, she will lose out on the juiciest worms. Be industrious during hard times and you will reap rewards.
Life is cozier wedged in between your dearest friends
Every dusk as the group settles in for the night the ladies crowd together. Obviously our large coop was overkill because all twenty-four hens huddle together in a tiny four square foot space. Chickens nestled on top of chickens. While scrunched, pinned, squeezed, buried under feathers, they snuggle with one another. Surrounding themselves with those who love and support them and warming their cold feet. The company you keep holds the strongest power of influence in your life.
Without becoming too consumed with the ideas of pecking order and parasites (yes, we all get them, figuratively of course) the hens have redeemed my blunders of farm life. Now, I am not saying I will lay off Google for help, but I have definitely learned life’s true treasures are always discovered below the surface, and if you scratch a little you are sure to find them.