I have decided I am going to let the world know that I am a chicken person!
It is my opinion that there are very few things to not love about chickens. Two to be exact: poop and roosters crowing at 1:27am. Or at any hour, for that matter! With those two unappealing entities aside, let’s move on to what IS appealing about the hens and roosters in my back yard.
When I was in elementary school in 1971, my family moved to the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York off Long Island. When my dad first told me we were moving to the country, I clearly remember the distinct image I had in my mind of him standing in a barnyard in faded blue denim overalls with chickens all around him. My dad taught high school and college English, so it was a bit “out there” of me to even imagine him in such attire and in such a setting (I obviously grew up watching Green Acres!).
It was when I met my new friend, Lorine Van Put, that I was struck with CLS (Chicken Loving Syndrome) for the first time. Lorine’s parents both worked for the parks and wildlife department and were also both fishing guides on the Beaverkill River, known for its trout and for fly fishing. Mr. and Mrs. Van Put tied their own flies (special hooks) to fly fish with, and had chickens to use their feathers in the flies/hooks. Lorine had her own little hen, Penny, and she was the most darling little low-to-the-ground hen I had ever seen! From that point on, I had CLS. I longed for a pet hen the way normal kids long for kittens or puppies or hamsters!
Fast forward to 2001 when my husband, Anthony, and I built our home on several acres. My friend, Sully, wanted to give me some of her banty hens and roosters (She also suffers from CLS, by the way). Anthony built me a super cute coop and I simply could not wait to wake up each morning and go let “my girls” out in the yard.
Banty hens love to be mamas, so it wasn’t very long before I had several batches, or broods, of babies. Watching chicken mamas with their babies is heartwarming. Truly! They are so protective and have different clucking sounds for different situations of food, danger and comfort. They often will stop and sit so the babies can go under their wings to rest and warm up. One of my favorite scenarios is when there are multiple moms with chicks. They all hang out together in a different part of the yard from the other chickens. It warms my heart as it brings back memories of play dates when my four children/chicks were little and the wonderful times I had visiting with girlfriends and other moms as our children played.
I think what I mostly love about my chickens is the comedy and laughter they fill my home with. Recently, someone left the front door open and Sadie, one of my big hens, had made herself comfortable in the rocking chair in the entry hall. Another day, someone left the back door open (obviously not uncommon in this house) and when I walked into the living room, Jean Pierre, (my favorite rooster of all time!) was standing in the middle of the room looking at our three outdoor cats that were also now indoors! Several years ago my neighbor came over to tell me he had found some eggs in his boat and also in his barbeque pit. Oh, my girls are such world travelers going to all corners of the world to lay their darling little eggs! We have had quite a few expectant moms sit in the planters on the front porch, on the shelves in my husband’s barn/garage, and a few even hatch babies up in the boys’ tree fort. That was not well-thought-out since the moms didn’t figure in to the picture how they were going to get their babies down. But my son, Cameron, my youngest chicken rescuer at the time, climbed up with a backpack, tucked all the babies in, and brought them down as the mothers squawked and fussed until they were reunited once again!
My roosters also have a special place in my heart as they can be seen standing guard every day over the “women and children”. They are also wonderful providers and use certain clucks and bob their heads up and down toward the bug or seed to indicate there is a treat for some lucky lady!
I could continue with many more chicken tales (not to be confused with chicken tails), but would be remiss if I didn’t include how my chickens have even encouraged my heart in this hard season of my life. Last year, my wonderful husband, Anthony, passed away after a battle with cancer. Our loss is so great. But God has so sweetly used my chickens to comfort me (Psalm 91:1-2, 4). When I see those baby chicks running under their mamas, it is the most impacting image I could have to help me remember Who my Strength is, Who my Protector is, and Who my Comforter is, as I trust Him and hide under His wings. We often can miss the reminders, comforts, and healing ways that everyday events can play in our lives. And God, in His incredibly creative love, has used my silly feathered friends to bring a reassuring hug to my heart, letting me know that He’s in charge and taking good care of me and my children.
I know that MANY people don’t get my “chicken thing”, and that’s okay. But who knows? Maybe there are some of you who need a few girls and roosters in your lives to give a smile to your face or a hug to your heart...just sayin’. Or maybe you need to watch a few episodes of Green Acres to get the ball rolling!
Photos by Pauline Stevens