Learning About Life From Chickens: A Moment With Bill Reflection
Maybe I Have, Finally, Lost My Mind
Where else will you find a quote by James Dean about chickens?
I am in complete agreement with James Dean. We have six chickens and not once in the six months we have had them have they booed me or my writing. For that I am very grateful.
They are eating machines. They are drinking machines and yes, they are pooping machines. They are also fascinating creatures who have unselfishly taught me some very important lessons about life and seriously, who woulda thunk it possible?
We began with nine, all purchased from a local farmer, a Vietnam vet who bought a few acres after the war ended and has been raising chickens, ducks and geese ever since. In the city where we live, we are only allowed to have six hens, but we had to buy nine originally because it is impossible to look at a chick and know whether you have a male or female. You literally have to wait until they are old enough to crow to find out how many roosters you have. Turned out we had five males, so we headed back to the farm to trade two in for confirmed females.
So now we have six. Bev insisted that we name them, so their official names are Minerva, Regalia, Butch, Zorro, Penelope and Butterball. I know, I know, Butch and Zorro should be males but they aren’t, and Butterball should be a turkey, but she isn’t.
As I sit in my writer’s studio, the chickens are twenty feet outside my door in their own enclosed area of the backyard. We basically put up a fence dividing our backyard into a chicken yard and a people yard, and then we stretched netting over their section so they don’t fly into a neighbor’s yard and become dinner for a German Shepherd or a raccoon.
Because they are so close to where I write, I have had ample opportunity to observe them this summer, and those observations have led to some interesting lessons learned. Would you like to meet our girls through some vignettes? Of course you would!
Minerva looks more like a hawk than a chicken. She has a sleek body and a beautiful golden color that glows in the sunshine….and….she likes to roam. Show her a fence and you show her a challenge. Designate an area as “people only” and she will designate you as a fool.
She is our wanderer, the wanderlust junkie who has never seen a mountain she can’t climb nor faced a restriction she can’t beat. Crawl under, fly over, fly through and fly around, this bird sees unlimited possibilities in life and I don’t have the heart to tell her she is wrong. She not only looks like a hawk but I am convinced she believes she is a hawk, and one day it would not shock me to see her soaring up high with her soul mates. “To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.” Minerva would have liked Tennyson.
Regalia may be her name but we often will call her Bullet, or the White Bullet. When Bev brings out the food you can bet your bottom dollar that Regalia will be first in line, streaking across the yard in this weird running style that reminds me of Jesse Owens with short legs.
She was born with a cross-beak and we didn’t know for sure if she would live this long because it is so difficult for her to grab food with that crooked beak, but she has not only lived but she has thrived. She and Minerva are our two blue egg layers, and I admit to a certain amount of pride in knowing that a chicken that should have died lays beautiful, pale-blue eggs.
I guess nobody bothered to tell her that she had a disability. It’s just as well that nobody did because she wouldn’t have believed it anyway. J
Slow and steady wins the race. If a chicken could be a turtle it would be named Butch. Butch is our over-sized resident, a plodder and an independent lover of all that is on the ground. Poking and prodding, scratching and exploring, Butch never lacks for things to do and is quite content being a chicken. While Minerva dreams of floating on thermals hundreds of feet above the ground, Butch is quite happy being a member of the flat-landers community.
Despite her over-ripe size, Butch is no bully. She patiently waits her turn for the nesting box and the roost. She never pushes, never shoves and never demands. She seems to understand that the community is only as strong as its weakest link. Butch will never win a beauty contest and she is fine with that knowledge. Self-confidence and self-love are her strengths, and if I had to pick which of our six will live the longest it would be Butch because of her laid-back disposition. Stress will never kill this chicken.
Have you ever known a beautiful woman who did not realize how beautiful she was? That’s Zorro! Zorro is our show chicken, a stunning black with green highlights that are spectacular in the sunlight. She has perfect form and even has really cool tufts on her feet that give her a regal appearance.
Everyone can see her beauty except Zorro. She is always by herself, easily bullied and quite shy, the only one of the six who will not let you close enough to pick her up. She is easily frightened and appears to approach life with a “duck and cover” mentality, sensing that the world is a dangerous place and she will be harmed if anyone gets close to her.
If only she could see how truly beautiful she really is.
Just something to think about
- In Search of Cultural Diversity
Is there true diversity in society today? That is the question we attempt to answer in this essay.
Say hello to the loudmouth. There is one in every group, is there not? Penelope announces to the world what she is doing at all times. The city planners zoned out roosters because they are too loud; they obviously never met Penelope before they established that zoning law.
Penelope tells everyone when she has laid an egg. Penelope tells everyone when she is leaving the coop. Penelope tells everyone when she is hungry. Blessed may be the poor in spirit but Penelope is having none of that nonsense. In her opinion good things happen to those who step up and demand attention, and I have to tell you that she is right. Once she starts squawking I waste no time bringing her a little treat to shut her up before the neighbors start protesting. As I write this I can hear her holding court with the rest of her coop cousins, telling them just what will and will not be happening in the near future…and her cousins listen.
We call her the Protector. We also call her Butter Bitch, but only when she isn’t listening. If she heard us say that she would probably attack and believe me, her peck is worse than her squawk.
It is my own personal opinion that Butterball secretly wishes she were a rooster. She has some serious sex issues and I’m not sure if those issues will ever be properly dealt with….so she is frustrated, and the frustration manifests itself in attempting to peck anyone who dares to enter the chicken yard.
Frustration leads to anger leads to violence….sound familiar? Funny thing is that she will protect the other chickens. Butterball is fearless, and heaven help the intruder who mistakenly walks into her kingdom and ruffles the feathers of her adopted brothers and sisters. Bev has the scars to substantiate that claim.
How to raise chickens in case you are interested
What do you think? Would you raise chickens?
And That’s Our Group
How are they any different from any group of people you observe? There are the dreamers, the explorers, the ones who will to take a risk. There are the shy ones, the bullies and the ones who seem to work well in conjunction with all others. There are the demanders and the submitters and those who will never recognize their own gifts and talents.
Six chickens….six sets of dreams, needs, desire and personalities.
Seven billion people…seven billion sets of dreams, needs, desires and personalities.
Will we ever learn? Embrace the commonalities and work through the differences. If chickens can do it, there is a good chance we can as well.
2013 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”