Chicken Diaries: Rosey, the Hummingbird and the miracle

Rosey is stopped in place and frozen.

She swept the garden in its morning light as early shadows cast themselves around the dirt for something, anything really.  That is her ritual, she walks, soft black feathers spiny on her neck with her sleek head down seeking bits of interesting food from worms to seeds not yet fully buried under the spiked and over sized red-orange rose bush. She pecks in the dry, hard dirt for hours with a scratch here and dirt bath there contentedly taking breaks for sun bathing.  She looks like a chicken practicing her death pose when she sun bathes.  She lays on her side, legs out, toes curled, wings bunched up any which way with her eyes half closed and her beak half open.  From a distance you might see all the chickens doing this and it appears to be some sort of grizzly chicken apocalypse but really they’re just relaxing under a summer sun and storing vitamin D for the darker days of winter they know will one day come. They are loving the warmth. Chickens need a break to rest their bodies.  It’s a lot of work holding those wings up and bobbing their heads to get a better picture of what’s going on.  Chickens are always busy.  So this is a rare break to do basically nothing but peck, play and lay in the sun.

But the break has been interrupted for one of the chickens. Rosey is transfixed and staring, her wings taut, her toes dug into the dirt and her beak slightly open.  The only thing moving are her eyes which are rapidly opening and closing to put into better focus exactly what is directly in front of her.

Seeing for Rosey and all the other chickens is really seeing.  Chickens are able to see the color spectrum plus they can see UV light. They can look at the sky and immediately detect which way is north by observing the gradation of light.  When they see another bird they are able to see the UV light surrounding that individual and how that light is affected by movement.  Through this they can calculate how close the bird is and based on how fast they are moving when that bird will arrive next to them.

They additionally have built in bifocals so they can adjust for near and far objects and see them with equal clarity that’s why they will turn their heads from side to side or bob their heads to adjust their eyes in order to see clearly in a way a mammal could never experience.

Now Rosey who is a young chicken, just three months, has not seen that much yet.  So many things are a first time for her. When a small, Kodachrome green Hummingbird held herself in impossible, rapid flight directly in front of Rosey so close that both Rosey and I could look in her black eyes nothing else moved. About three inches long, her face in perfect view while her wings beat so that only the trailing vibration of them cut through the air and sight Rosey could only stand motionless. She could feel the flap of the Hummingbirds super rapid wings and hear the vibration in her hollow bones and it struck awe in Rosey.  She was not afraid.  Had she been scared her head would go down and she’d run or fly away.  I’ve seen it many times since chickens are easily spooked. No, this was not fear but complete amazement.  She stood still and watched the Hummingbird with total wonder.

Imagine what she might have seen with her ability to see UV light and to adjust her vision so that she can see up close objects with absolute clarity.  Could she have counted the flaps per second of that Hummingbird?  Could she see the total spectrum of color not just of the Hummingbird but how her movement affects the air and her feathers and the life around her?  Could you picture that?   

Within seconds that felt like minutes because the beauty of it killed all clocks, the Hummingbird was gone.  We looked at each other and saw that the other chickens missed it as they continued scratching and pecking. It’s just Rosey and I, the looks on our faces a mirror.  

She let out a soft murmur and so did I.

 Before the Hummingbird Rosey timidly walked in the garden.  She stayed under a small palm plant or sat close to me for protection. After the Hummingbird Rosey explored a larger territory and lifted her head toward the sky as if seeking out her next miracle.  She even noticed a curious Robin hopping ever closer from weathered fence board to board, her orange belly puffed, her cries muffled as she came in for a better view with appreciation rather than fear.

There’s something about the awe of nature which brings confidence.  If the world can be that beautiful, why fear it?

Rosey has spectacular sight.  She also has vision.  Her abilities date back to the dinosaurs from which she evolved and so does her connection rooted deeply in the soil, the sky and her every cell of being.


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