Chicken Diaries: 8 thousand feathers and freedom

Eight thousand feathers.  That’s the number of individual, hand painted feathers Rosey has on her less than five pound body. She sparkles in sunlight as it picks up blue, purple, deep green, gold, silver all shimmering on the midnight blackness of each feather. No two are alike in size and color as they cover her except for her yellow brown feet and ankles and her earth green eyes and chestnut beak which also has about twelve shades of gold and brown.

She stands by the coop door panting in the heat and seeking shade.  Rosey speaks often in various tones which range from a low grumble when she is angry and pacing to an alto soprano warble when she is happily chatting with her friends.  Sometimes she smiles with her whole body and other times she pouts with it as well with her feathers tucked in tightly standing on one foot and staring at the ground as if its disappointing her. Today she is quiet and moody in her new coop outside set under a tree for shade. It’s stocked with grain, water and ample servings of fresh fruit and veggies. Her friends are contented which seems to further irritate her.

Rosey does not like closed doors. She is a born free ranger with an independent streak as striking as her feathers. She begins knocking at the door with her beak and kicking it with her foot. Her body language is exceptionally clear.

I open the coop and try to explain that as a chicken she is confined for her own protection. She is tall enough to hit just below my knee with her tail feathers and they tickle me as she brushes past me entirely uninterested in my explanation. She is free and that’s where she longs to be.

My dad used to tell me as a high school girl with a similar independent streak that he was only confining me to care for me as I brushed by him toward my 1978 Super Beetle and freedom. In New Hampshire the license plates say “Live Free or Die” and I feel certain Rosey and I have that slogan tattooed somewhere on our souls. If hens could drive Rosey would have had her license yesterday.

Freedom is tricky. Rosey defines it as going where she pleases when she pleases. Her boyfriend, Star Moon defines it as a place in his heart. He sits quietly in the coop with the door wide open lounging on the grass and noticing the warm breezes as they ruffle his soft, grey feathers. He is free without moving a wing. He loves his lady but feels no need to join her in her rebellion for all things related to closed doors. Open or closed is all the same to him. He too has eight thousand feathers and a complex heart as loving as the moon embracing the Pacific Ocean on a star filled July night full of fables and mystery.  He calls sweetly to his love but she is under her favorite rose bush hunting for worms and chicken fame and fortune in the thrill of her freedom. Rosey cannot see or hear love when she is chasing independence.

Star Moon seems to be crying out; Come to me and I will catch you under my wing and I will whisper the great truth in your heart that love is freedom.  Rosey turns to look at him but then goes back to her preoccupation silently. She believes there will always be a time to double back for love. I wonder, how can she be sure? Then it comes to me. Perhaps love of freedom, love of self, love of the great chicken hunt and love of Star Moon are all love, all equal love and that chasing the longings of her heart is her loving purpose. Perhaps this longing is what makes Star Moon sit quietly and coo to her as she pursues her passion. He has time, he will wait because he is wise and his longings are wrapped up in her and his pursuit for a peaceful path.

I will still keep Rosey safe in her coop when I cannot be there to watch for hawks and hunters of chickens who cannot understand the beauty of eight thousand feathers but when there is time for free ranging I will set her loose to love her life, her longing and her self as she sparkles in the sunlight of a new day and the hope of a warm tomorrow because who could better know the value of freedom than one who is so often locked away?

Rosey understands her love and trusts it. Now, I do too.

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