The Chicken Chronicles: Regalia Defies The Odds
A Little Background
About eight months ago my wife and I decided to raise chickens. Mind you, we live in the heart of the city, Olympia, Washington, and we do not have an abundance of room, but still we thought this might be a fun pastime.
Our plan in two years is to move to the country; buy a few acres and raise our own food, so we thought this would be a nice way to dip our toes in the farming water and check the water temperature.
Our first task, then, was to build a chicken coop. We did our diligent research and then, as is our way, we took our own path. We are not big on spending tons of money on projects, and we certainly have better things to do with that money than spend it on an expensive, pre-made chicken coop, so we made do with what we had. We took some wooden pallets that we had and used them to frame the coop; we bought two sheets of plywood for the walls. We found a wooden box at a garage sale that was perfect for a nesting box, and we used an old pickup canopy for the roof. Total cost was somewhere around $50.
Next we needed chickens. We found a wonderful gentleman a few miles out of town who has been raising chickens as a hobby since he left the army after Vietnam. He schooled us on chicken farming and sold us six chicks which we have lovingly cared for ever since.
They have been laying eggs now for a few months, and with each new egg they proudly notify the neighborhood of their laying prowess. They all have distinct personalities, laying waste to the claim that chickens are stupid.
I hope you join me and get to know our little family. Each chicken has lessons that they can teach all of us about life, and I’ll be sharing those lessons with you in each new Chicken Chronicles episode. Who knows? Maybe I will inspire you to raise some chickens too; you won’t be disappointed if you choose to do so.
The Ugly Duckling
Okay, not a duckling, but the name applies well to our Regalia.
By the time Regalia was a month old it was apparent she had a fairly serious problem. She was born with cross beak, an abnormality where the top of the beak grows at an angle, overlapping the bottom. Apart from the rather odd sight, it is also fairly dangerous for a chicken because it greatly hinders its ability to eat properly. Many cross beak chickens do not survive and eventually die from malnutrition.
She really is an ugly chicken. She is underweight because of her handicap, and as you can see from the pictures she just has this un-kept, starving artist look to her. Her feathers are always ruffled, like a college student who just woke up late for class, and she looks deranged on her best of days with that deformed beak and famished look.
A quick tutorial on raising chickens
Overcoming Life’s Little Setbacks
Regalia figured out rather early that if she was going to survive she needed to spend more time eating, and she needed to attempt to eat copious amounts if she was going to get the required amount. She also figured out, with five other chickens providing competition for every morsel of food, that she needed to be fast and aggressive when food is offered.
We call her the Silver Bullet because of her speed when chow time is announced. Whereas she has great difficulties eating chicken pellets, she has no such problem eating bread crumbs, so when Bev or I break out the bread for our group, Regalia can be counted on to beat them all to every single piece offered. She can be seen as a blur racing to every piece of bread, inhaling it as she runs to the next and the next, and shoving anyone out of the way who is foolish enough to block her path. She has become so proficient at pushing and shoving for the morsels that we now have to give Regalia three or four pieces at a time and then feed the others while Regalia is chowing down.
And from Ugliness Comes Beauty
Lordy, Lordy, can this chicken lay a beautiful egg. Blue eggs are Regalia’s specialty, and so proud she is when she lays that she emerges from the roost announcing to the world the special talent she has for powder-blue deliveries. Trust me when I tell you that when she lays an egg the entire neighborhood is aware of it.
Not only does she lay colored eggs, but she is also the most consistent of our layers, never failing, even now in late-November, to deliver an egg daily while her step-sisters are slowly cutting back for the winter.
Is it possible for ugly to be pretty? I would submit to you that Regalia is living proof that it is indeed possible.
Oh my goodness, where do we begin?
Granted, the life of a chicken is a bit limiting. Their world consists of 1/8 of an acre, unless they are feeling frisky and decide to fly over the neighbor’s fence. They know nothing of world peace or a world at war. They know nothing about prejudice or bigotry, and they certainly have no concept of economics or religion.
Still, there are lessons to be learned.
Who among you has a handicap? Who among you lacks confidence or self-esteem? Who among you has had to fight like a fury for everything you own, and continue fighting each day just to maintain what you do have? Who among you have been told you cannot succeed, that you will never make it, that you don’t have a chance? Who among you has faced odds so large as to seem impossible and yet you continued on?
If any of those descriptions fit you then say hello to Regalia and adopt her as your symbol of determination and gritty ethics.
Regalia has taken a handicap and adjusted. Regalia has taken exterior ugliness and transformed it to interior beauty. Regalia has looked at the odds and laughed at them. Regalia learned to first survive and then thrive.
And what does that say about all of us? We, who were born with seemingly unlimited potential? What does that say about us? We who were born with no handicaps others than those of our own making? What does that say about us? We who roll up into a supplicating cocoon when life becomes too hard? What does that say about us? We with two arms, two legs, a fully functioning mind and talents yet untapped? What does that say about us?
Take a close look at Regalia? Now take a close look at yourself. Do you see a little bit of Regalia in you? If so then you are on the right path in life.
2013 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”