Chicken Diaries: The Power of Love

Happy is handsome and it’s going to his head.  I hate to say it but he’s even acting, well, cocky.  As the only self identified rooster in a colony of beautiful girls he is growing his comb in quite nicely, his grey and white feathers are something like you’d see in an Aspen ski lodge wrapped around Heidi Klum.  He is shiny. He is also sure everyone else sees it too.

His arrogance is weighing heavy on Rosey’s mind and even Happy’s self selected mate, the beautiful Miss Henny Penny is getting sick of his antics.

Now let me be clear rooster antics are a slight variation to those of a teen boy.  He doesn’t demand the car keys, smoke or tell you he needs privacy primarily because he’s a chicken and they don’t drive or smoke and if he’s telling me to leave him alone it’s unknown as we don’t speak the same language.  But he’s similar to a young human guy in that he’s scared but can’t show it and he struts about pushing the others in the aviary out of the way to the prime roosting bar spots, he’s been known to shove at the food and water dish and one time I must confess he landed on one of the girls backs.  This is not going to end well if he can’t be respectful.

The problems started when Angela and Kyra worked for two weeks to create a palace of an aviary complete with cedar floors and interiors with chicken wire wrap from the finest materials. Everyone was happy at first.  Then discontent began to settle in the coop.  Spots were marked, the food dish began to get rearranged to more strategic locations and then in defiance of all that is sacred to chickens some birds which will remain nameless started knocking others off the roosting bar.  This is not fair fighting.

Among all the status seeking and consumerism that appeared to be showing up in a more opulent appearing flock Happy began to act as if he was the crowned prince.  Tonight it came to a head.

Rosey and Henny cuddled up on the roosting bar and began to slumber as I sang them their bed time song and Happy jumped in the middle scattering them to both sides and snuggled up to hear the song.  At first Rosey and Henny accepted it and went to the water dish but suddenly Henny spun around leaped at the roosting bar yelling loudly and ninja kicked Happy straight off the bar in a true act of righteous girl power.  When he started to jump back my Rosey girl who is still a good head and shoulders taller than the rest turned her head and neck down and stared Happy in the face with her chest puffed out and made a low chirp almost like a growl.  He wasn’t happy about it but Happy backed off.  He retreated to the water dish.  I noticed he wasn’t drinking but just standing with his wings down a bit and staring off.  Poor guy. Learning boundaries can take a lifetime.

I wrapped up the apparently much sought after bedtime song and decided I’d also need to refill their water dish.  Water and food are important to everyone but chickens bred to grow fast and fat so they can be put into “production” as soon as possible for maximum profit need more food and water per ounce than most living things.  So when I say they needed water it’s a true and critical thing.  I don’t know because there is an astonishingly small amount of research about living chickens feelings but I suspect the accelerated growth and heft must be painful like growing pains in human children but geometrically more so.

When I reached in the aviary to collect the dish they crowded my hands playfully and affectionately leaning into them.  They are just over five weeks old now and their feathers are soft and smooth like Egyptian Cotton and Silk.  Their eyes are an ancient shade of green like a history of the world’s plants and when they look at me and lean in with their warmth and softness looking in my face chirping a small hum it’s the marriage of a completely different species in every way coming to understand the value in the other.  I experience it as a release of me as a human being into me as a human animal.  Stripped of the need to be a superior steward I become a creature of awe and wonder where words are useless because feelings are what count.  They seem to have no trouble crossing that bridge but I’ve been a slower learner.

When I returned with the water I expected them to crowd it and get their critical and pressing need met.  But they didn’t do it.  They wanted to touch and be touched.  They wanted me to sing more and talk more and stay in that kind of holy communion that discovery brings.

Happy will learn his boundaries and eventually the newness of the new house will settle down and they will return to harmony because that is the law of nature.  It is effective to be in harmony and share the work and protect one another when every other species wants to eat you.  Nature also informs us that what benefits all benefits each and balance is essential to make that happen.  That’s the adaptive reality behind all successful species.  Compassion is a necessary element to survive as a group.  Chickens don’t seem to feel a need to justify it, they simply act on it.  They, like me, have their compassion challenges and every now and then their ego gets in the way of better judgment.  But they will work it out because it is in there very nature.  Kindness does not come as an optional feature, we as in humans, mammals and birds live in communities and we need it to survive.  This may not be true of all species because some are lone rangers but for anyone living in a group that’s the reality. What I like about chickens is that they don’t seem to fight the laws of nature but instead lean into them.

I wonder when I’ll get there.



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