A little lesson from my feathered familiars today: look out for each other.
My chickens are predictable creatures. They are tattletales. Wherever I am, even across the property, or in the bathroom deep within the house, if one of the chickens gets out, I will hear them yelling for me. Yes, they yell for me, and the ones on the porch tap furiously at the window until I show up.
It took me a while to realize what was going on, not being familiar yet with these sweet, generous friends, and their various ways of communication. Being profusely aware that my neighbors back wall is closer to the chickens than I am when I am when I am in a far room, the squawking was a stressor for me, before I understood that they were telling me that someone had gotten out.
Usually, the chickens are pretty easy to distract. Chickens don’t seem to hold a grudge, at least, not against people. Sometimes, I would assume that Chick, who is the squawkiest of them all, wanted to be fed, but that wasn’t it, and there wasn’t a morsel that could distract here, and usually, she is first in line to help me thin the tomato plants.
It didn’t take too long to put two and two together. When she pecks at the window repeatedly, she’s knocking. She’ll stop doing that if I feed her, pet her, or, sit or lay on the couch within her view. When I settle to meditate where they can see me, they will immediately ruffle up and settle down. They tuck their heads and nap, not stirring until I do.
But, not for the squawk. The squawk only stops when I check the other chickens, because inevitably, invariably, it means that someone has gotten out, and I need to go make sure that they’re safe, bring them home.
All in all, they don’t seem very bent on escape. I was nervous about that, because I don’t have as big of a space as I would like for them, but when I realized that they would break into their coops, and when they were little, they would perch on the edge of their box, jumping back in but never out. Pooping out, on the other hand, did not seem to phase them. They’re affection, cozy creatures, and suit me well, especially at this cozy, rather affectionate time of my life, when I, too, am content in the sanctuary I’ve created.
They do, however, see the tall grass and bugs and weeds in the neighbors back yard area, and, being chickens, have not agreed to the same social constructs as I, and do, frequently, fly the coop, so to speak. They never go far, they’re always just pecking on the other side of the fence. The fence, which is electrified when plugged in (bears), is actually composed of holes the size of which they can fit through, and I half-heartedly drape deer netting over that, but really, if they wanted out, they could get out.
And, when they do, the others care. They care a lot, it’s all they care about!
Today, I remember that I am part of several flocks. I am certainly a part of Chick’s flock. She keeps an eye out for me. I’m the keeper of my own flock, my close family, as I am also kept by them. I have a flock of friends, who keep an eye out for me, too.
Also, I am part of the same flock that you’re part of, that we all are. We are humans who are, like the chickens, more alike than we are different, and, like the chickens, it’s easy to squawk when someone has flown the coop.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t. The chickens keep each other safe like this. They don’t wander quickly, but eventually, they’d peck to the road, and I’d like my chickens on this side for as long as naturally possible. When it’s wrong, when it’s dangerous, when it’s scary, we need to speak up, but it’s good to remember that on either side of the fence, we’re still connected, and the easier we make it for each other to come back the better.