Chicken Diaries: Are you strong enough to be gentle?

Happy is experiencing fear. He trembles and makes small noises of protest as I hold him. He can’t weigh even half a pound.  He has no teeth, no huge claws and while he’s strong in a lot of ways he could not overpower me. I have to clean his foot so I snatch him away from the group and head toward water.  He trembles in my hand and I realize his dilemma.  He needs the help but still he is afraid to leave his flock and he is so small and I’m so large. I could hurt Happy and he couldn’t do much about it.

Still, he is strong if considered in his own rooster context. Happy is about four inches tall and can jump four vertical feet straight up. He can fly but since his aviary doesn’t have sufficient room for a runway, he’s just jumping.  Compare this to an Olympic high jumper who, if he’s really stellar, can jump ten feet. That’s a person who stands about six feet tall. By comparison if Happy competed in the Olympic high jump he’d beat every human man by several feet.

Happy is not competing with anyone. He just enjoys his routine of waking up his flock by jumping four vertical feet straight up, leaning on his back foot, puffing out his chest, raising up his neck feathers like a Mohawk and belting out a crow his mother would be proud of if she had ever met him.

He keeps watch, he herds his flock with an intricate series of bird noises and when he’s content he purrs as gently as a kitten.  Happy is strong willed having worked around the clock for the top rooster spot against another dude who decided Happy really is the better man and took a back seat in favor of a calmer lifestyle.  He can dig up his own worms and share them with his family, he can scratch out a path and he can sleep in small shifts to be certain everyone is safe.  Despite all these skills Happy lacks one thing–he is not a predator.

If I need to grab him to clean his foot he has to take a deep breath and hope it’ll be okay. His fragility is like my own. If someone wants to hurt me, really wants that, let’s face it I can put up a fight but most likely I’ll end up however I’m left.  There is no amount of planning or cache of weapons that can stop someone from surprising me and applying lethal force. Like Happy I have no big claws, big teeth or super strength. I am not fast and no match for a real predator. But, like Happy I’m strong in a lot of other ways which I use daily.

Being a tough predator is not the whole game or really any part of the game for Happy and I. We know who we are and who we are not. I am strong enough to hurt a small guy like Happy, but why would I?  Just because I can is not reason enough. If I hurt Happy I would lose the company of a good friend and the wonder of living closely with another species being animals together in the sun and shade, dirt and grass under a blue sky as the world moves around us.  I’ve got plenty of choices for food but I’ve only got one source for Happy’s friendship.

Every day we are met with choices about how to use our power and strength.  Happy uses his to watch his flock and jump ten times his height straight up for the shear drama of crowing on a stage (it’s the top of the nesting boxes but close enough). I use mine to care for Happy, my dear friend Rosey and the the whole chicken family I call friends. I also use it to write this blog. Not everyone is impressed by a chicken obsessed grown woman and there’s some toughness needed to be that person.

Sitting and breathing with chickens perching and purring we discover our power in joyfulness and presence.  The old man says; “The Master does nothing but leaves nothing undone”.  Happy does not need to do to be. He is the black and white roo with yellow white feet the color of faded daisies and a luminous pink crown.

There is no strength nor power like knowing who he is and who he’s not. There is no fear worthy enough to justify harm for its convenience. Happy is strong and powerful.




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