Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Speedwalking with Chickens
Today I became a chicken. Metaphorically of course.
My husband and I have three adorable teenage chickens who seem so absolutely happy in the daily course of their lives that I was positive that there were lessons to be learned from them. So I let them out of their chicken cathedral, a palatial chicken coop that took us much too long to construct and decorate, and got down on their level. I mean really got down on their level.
I lay in my belly, in the grass that desperately needed mowing, surrounded by chicken poop and dog poop and, god literally only knows what else, and I attempted to scientifically observe chicken behavior.
All too soon I realized that there is nothing to be learned from scientifically studying chickens. It's much too sterile an approach for these amazing little creatures and to really figure out what makes a chicken tick I had to let go of the hypotheses and clinical observations and just feel what a chicken feels, see what a chicken sees.
So, I gave in, crawled a little closer to the babies, lay my chin on my hands and watched, really watched, with an open mind and an open heart. When chickens find something of interest they throw their entire beings into it. If it looks edible they gobble it up with great abandon. If it needs further exploring they scratch at it until it all becomes clear in their little chicken minds. Then, they try to eat it again. If it runs they chase it, wings flapping, tail feathers flitting wildly behind them and they just, well, go for it.
If it flies, by Jove, they fly right after it. They jump right up into the air, flap wildly, squawk like it's going out of style and then, mid-flight, they inevitably take a fancy to something else and begin the process again. They don't fret about lost chances or the bug that got away. There's always another interesting patch of grass and another shiny tidbit that just has to be examined. And they never, ever, get embarrassed about running in circles, ad nauseum, just for the pure joy of it.
And you know what? When they get hot, or they get tired, or bored, they lay down. Imagine that. They just scratch themselves a nice new layer of cool dirt and they lay down. Generally right on top of one another. They use each other as pillows and blankets simultaneously and just snuggle right in. Not a care in the world.
Chickens preen when they want to. In essence, they scratch it when it itches and the rest of the time they leave it alone. We can learn a lot from that mentality. They revel in dirt baths, and I don't mean $100 sterile mud baths, but simple, organic, right off the ground, dirt. They throw it up in the air, they roll in it and then they get up, shake it off and they get on with their little chicken lives.
They don't care about a ruffled feather every now and then and they never hold a grudge.
From what I can tell a chicken thinks like this...if it's bigger than you (like say, a German Shepherd), peck it in the nose to see if it's really dangerous. What a fabulous idea! They must figure, well, it's bigger than me, let's really piss it off by poking it on the nose and if it eats me, then well, the suffering won't be drawn out. If not, then it's all good and...oh look...a bug! No excessive stress...just a matter-of-fact peck. Maybe that's why it's called the pecking order ;)
Chickens, when raised from babies stick together. If two of them wander off to investigate some new, intriguing patch of grass and one looks up and realizes the other two are too far away all hell breaks loose until they are, once again, within their proximity comfort zone. But they don't dwell on who left who or any misplaced abandonment issues. They just fix it, then and there, and get on with life.
And when chickens want to get somewhere they go from zero to speed walking in nothing flat; wings flapping, butts shaking, beaks squawking. No dilly-dallying. Unless of course there is a bug in their path, in which case all else must be forsaken to investigate.
So, I spent the day wallowing in dirt and speed walking with chickens and you know what? It was the most enlightening day I've had in a long time.
My recommendation? Get down on the ground, throw yourself into it and look at the world from a whole new perspective. You might be surprised at how much there is to learn.