A few days ago, a chicken with pinless peepers popped up in my newsfeed. Pinless peepers are these chicken-like glasses that block them from seeing directly what is in front of them. Chickens with these pinless peepers can still see to eat and drink. For the most part, they have had blinders put on them because of bad behavior. Some chicken keepers put these on those troublemaker hens. Usually it is as last ditch effort to prevent them from bullying or pecking at other flock members. Sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t. After watching these chickens with pinless peepers, you realize that sometimes life becomes a whole lot more interesting when you live with blinders on.
After keeping chickens for a while and spending time with them, I think you will realize that there is a great deal that people can learn from watching a flock grow old together. I’ve been feeling so saddened lately with all that I am hearing, watching, and reading about in the world. Sometime I begin to wonder if there is any decency left in this human race that I am apart of. No longer are heinous events limited to those of a certain age, area, or group. They are melting across all parameters of our existence. It’s these times when I try to take time to unplug and remember the simple joys and happiness that surround me. To me, happiness is a flock of chickens.
It all happened in under a 5 minute time period out in the coop yesterday morning between Tilly and Oyster Cracker.
Yesterday morning, I opened up the coop door and let the vivacious young uns out along with the old ladies. I could hear everyone chattering up at storm out in the run enjoying the freshly scattered scratch that I shared with them. I began to get to work tidying up inside the coop as I typically do each morning. Then I noticed that I had a visitor.
Earlier this week, if you follow me on Facebook, you saw that I hurt my foot. I actually walked into the couch during my typical morning family routine. I was rushing and the couch surely won. At first, I felt no pain. This was how I knew that I had done a doozy on my foot. Then seconds later the pain flooded in. It was horrific! I yelped and knew that this was not your average stubbed toe.
I started reading Jan’s books to my children even before they could listen to the words. We gazed for hours at her illustrations. My children learned animal names from her books. Sometimes, my son would even make me flip back to the previous page to look and linger some more. Her attention to detail is amazing and she is truly an incredibly talented illustrator and writer. I have spent time with Jan at various poultry shows and have enjoyed visiting her flock.
|Happy to sit in my lap.|
The chickens make me laugh, especially Oyster Cracker these days.
Early in the mornings, I see her peeking out the coop window, looking for me. As the others are busy laying eggs, eating and waking up, there she sits perched in the coop calling out to me with her eyes. “Hey, open the door already!”
When I do go and open them up, she is usually one of the first ones out. It just has to be that way. Usually, she comes out simultaneously through the little coop door with one of the Sikies. Yet yesterday, she came out at the same time as Sunshine. There they were my two Buff Orpingtons. The were carrying on, stuck in the door for a moment squawking to one another as they held up the entire morning parade of chickens through the coop door. Finally, with a bit of chicken team work and wiggling, they all made their way into the run.
Each morning, Oyster Cracker is the first one to hop up on one of the logs in the run and quickly survey the scene. Today, as I collected eggs she spied our puppy, Sara. She let out the biggest alarm. Then ran over to Sara, investigated and suddenly remembered, Oh, I know you! Then as Sara sniffed at her through the hardware cloth, Oyster Cracker carried on the sweetest cooing conversation with her. I wonder what they chatted about?
Later this morning, I weeded out the garden. I tossed into the run some kale, swiss chard and lettuce that was a bit past its prime. As the rest of the flock dove into the goodies like heat sinking missiles. Oyster Cracker was content to hop up into my lap and sit for a spell. Hot, heavy and feathered beyond anyone’s most extravagant boa, sat my girl. Usually my most greedy girl, she decided that she would rather be showered with affection today.
As my body felt like melting in this unbelievable heat wave and under her luscious plumage, I could feel my heart melting more. I didn’t think it was possible to love them anymore than I already do. Yet, each time my heart melts, I think it grows bigger and changes. I guess that is just the way things work. It is the way nature reworks the mold. It sculpts us, forges us, changes us and teaches us. Some of the greatest lessons are learned with our hearts. What has melted yours lately?
Photo Credit: Tilly’s Nest
My parents got divorced when I was sixteen years old. My mother moved us across the country from the east coast to the west coast. I had little time to prepare. I was given 3 days notice to pack the things nearest and dearest to my heart into two 3 feet cubed boxes. We were moving to California, to live with a man who my mother had only been dating for a few months. He got a job transfer, I was getting a new life. Things were not good.
I had been popular in my old school. I had known everyone since Kindergarten. I was a good student near the top of my class. I was even in Advance Placement classes. In California, I knew not a soul. I felt alone. I was placed into comparable classes in California, but somehow, it was like being in a foreign country.
My English teacher was a large robust woman with reddish hair. She was stout and intimidating. She had her class pets. I was not one of them. We worked on reading, writing college essays and practiced learning large vocabulary words for the SATs. One day, as she called each and every one of us up to retrieve our graded essays, she could not help but praise her favorite students out loud. It was my turn. She paused, looked at the paper, and then looked at me. It felt like the entire room went silent. In front of the entire class she told me that I was a “terrible writer” and she could not see why I was even placed in her class. I felt my cheeks flush. I was mortified. I felt embarrassed. I had always been told at my old school that I was a good writer. I went back to my seat. I held back the tears.
From that day forward, I stopped writing creatively. Like a task, I completed my college essay and chose a career with very little writing, medicine. I dreaded English classes in college, although no one ever complained about my writing and for the most part my grades were very good. Medicine was perfect. Rarely were complete sentences written and there were abbreviations for practically everything. And so it went for 20 years.
A few years ago, I took the plunge and feel in love with 6 little day old chicks. They awakened my spirit. I was passionate about them. I wanted to share with the world how wonderful they were. I felt like writing again. I decided the best way was to create an online diary, a blog. I began to write. I was fearless. The words and stories flowed from my fingers onto the pages. I didn’t care who read my writing. I was writing for me and my family.
The wounds of that teacher’s sharp tongue have been healed by a giddy, waddling, perky little flock of chickens with nothing but good things and happy little voices to greet me each and every morning. The chickens helped me to realize that I can’t believe so strongly in what just one person thinks. I am unafraid to be vulnerable. I try to be supportive to those around me. I always think before I speak about how my words will affect others. I learn from those chickens everyday. I can’t help but wonder, how my life, on so many levels, would be different without my flock.
|Chicken Abbey Road|
It is always such a wonderful feeling to return home after some time away. I am always eager to check on the girls and see how they adapted to life without us. We are fortunate to have some of the best chicken sitters around, but somehow, I can’t help but think they can never replace us.
I often wonder if the chickens even care who feeds them, who waters them or, especially who gives them treats. I tend to think that for them visualizing a handful of fresh greens can help them overcome any fear. Yet, time and time again when we return from being away the girls,we are greeted with giddy excitement.
As we pulled the car in the driveway, the girls must have known and made a bee-line to the coop door. Wiggling, dancing and stepping on each other’s toes, they could not wait to get out and be reunited with the family. As we quickly got the youngest one’s shoes on, the girls were calling out. My husband and I busily unpacked the car as the kids went over to see the chickens.
Once unpacked, I grabbed some fresh greens, a tomato from the fridge and some celery tops that had seen better days. There the girls were, with the kids so happy. I could feel my heart smile. I sat down near the coop and the girls showered me with their affection. Oyster Cracker could not wait to sit in my lap. I took a peek in the run. Just what had the girls been up to during our absence?
They dug holes; big, huge, all consuming holes in the run. Dolly and Autumn as suspected went broody. Tilly is done with being broody and continues to molt terribly and the rest seemed to just as they were when we left. Despite the heat, they had also laid a dozen eggs.
Our two families were once again reunited. It is amazing how much you can miss feathers and fluff, but somehow, it happens the same every time. The chickens know and love who we are as much as we feel for them. Home is a feeling that you get deep down inside; when you feel content, in a safe place and loved. Returning “home” for us happened yesterday outside the coop sitting in the grassy lawn.
Photo Credit: Tilly’s Nest