Have you ever seen chickens run? It’s a madcap rush, head lunged forward, feet swift, body rocking left and right, wings outstretched, ready for flight. A hop up and they are airborne, but only for seconds, plummeting once again to run a little more. Imagine comic, dashing Keystone Kops hopping as they run. Chicken slapstick.
I have witnessed these chicken antics since May when I became a backyard chicken farmer. During the coronavirus epidemic, I succumbed to chicken fever, as so many people did. Just as there were shortages for toilet paper, meat, flour and eggs, chicken hatcheries were swamped with calls for live chickens causing a back-up in orders. Despite my husband’s objections, I had repeatedly pleaded for us to raise chickens. Now when his two-egg breakfast was threatened, he relented. Yes, we would get chickens. He even built a coop for them.
We waited a month and half for our four-week old chicks to arrive by mail, although the week before their arrival, I was able to secure a few local chicks to complete our flock. Just like us, the two groups were quarantined for weeks to ensure all were healthy. Mid-June, I started to integrate them. And now, they coexist as long as the pecking order is observed.
I have been surprised at the amount of work involved in feeding them and keeping their environment clean. But I’ve also been surprised how quickly these creatures, close relations to velociraptors, have affixed themselves to my heart.
As a hen mother, unlike a human mother, it’s ok to have a favorite. Mine is Monique, the smallest but most inquisitive of the flock. At our first introduction, she stilled while the rest of the chicks careened wildly about. She cocked her head and stared straight at me, observing me. She still does. Often, she breaks from the group, who are still timid of me, to stride forward and greet me, allowing a pet or two. Am I anthropomorphizing her? Does real intelligence spark behind her eyes, do her thoughts run deep? I wonder as I begin the life of a chicken farmer/philosopher.