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In Memoriam to a Chickens' Community with a Happiness Quotient

“If you don’t believe they have souls, you haven’t looked into their eyes long enough…”

By Annemarie BerukoffPublished 2 months ago 9 min read
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All photos are by author

Who cares about stupid chickens, right? So why write on their behalf if only because the more you read about my wonder and respect for this domestic bird community, the more your eyes and mind will open to all of nature’s citizens, individualities and purposes. Along the way, perhaps, you will come across the happiness quotient like I found with such gratitude.

So, how does one form a special relationship with chickens who can imprint their happiness? Could it be more of a desperate emptiness to find some wholistic meaning in a rough roguish world? What if, a certain communality in a flock of chickens can inspire humanity to live and work co-operatively together?

At first, who thinks such a relationship is silly even bizarre; because, after all. chickens have no conscious awareness that they are chickens with biology and extraordinary features. But nature’s animals and birds exist with intrinsic rights without human nomenclature. As you will read, natural survival instincts give them abilities, a participatory language and cadence of their own existence, perhaps misaligning human’s thinking as superior beings because a larger brain can categorize and count. Strangely, one may ask how lack of human instinct versus too much intellect has created more disorder and suffering.

But, hopefully, as you read about this chicken community the more you realize how their sense of communal happiness connects to your memories of contentment even especially with loss.

My Story

For the last two years, I was caretaker to a flock of chickens interacting many times a day and quietly learning to appreciate their community dynamics. Therein, perhaps, there are some observations that are applicable to our functions in society.

Personal Observations

Chickens are quite intelligent in their natural habitat with remarkable geolocation senses to traverse very large areas searching for food; daring to wander bottom fields, large farmyards and gardens and still return to their coop at dusk time. Hens are extremely maternal who spend large portions of their lives sitting on eggs and raising their chicks if a rooster was present but not here.

By nature, chickens are social birds always curious about their surroundings running to check out any new happening … a toss of extra food, a stretched worm or buzzing insect. Sometimes they end up chasing each other like tag football to get what another chicken may have in her beak. When relaxing in groups, their self-care involves preening as an instinctive grooming behaviour by running their feathers through their beaks distributing oil from an oil gland at the base of their tail.

Like human behavior, chickens establish a pecking order with seemingly lasting social bonds to each other. Clearly, you can watch how a few of the larger birds dominate the smaller birds by sitting on their backs and pecking the top of their heads. They walk around the yard brazenly flapping their wings as others retreat. However, their purpose seems to act as a loud warning sentinel if a strange shadow should pass overhead causing immediate evacuation to the nearest bushes.

They like to talk, regular chatterboxes, expressing their feelings if happy, worried, frightened or just inquisitive. No English word can properly describe the sounds of a chicken because mere clucking is a monotone expression from a brooding hen whereas their vocalizations play the range of squawks, chortles, mellow screeches, staccato deep chirps or quiet burps and peeps, somehow individuated.

Early in the morning, this cacophony demands to be let out to the yard with a rush; and, in the evening, a few excitable squawks are part of the squabble for their roosting spots many preferring their former locations. “Stop the noise,” I’d say, “you don’t want the bears to hear where you’re sleeping.”

Quick review of some amazing anatomy ... temperature control, ears, digestion and eggs

Chickens have red combs, sometimes called crowns, and wattles thick with blood veins that act as natural air conditioners for internal temperature control transferring heat out on warm days and saving heat on cold days.

Did you know they have ears, not externally, but as side openings to the ear canal covered with feathers? Look closely at the bright golden amber eyeball with black pupil and with a pale ring of skin that can slide horizontally to close and protect from dust. They say chickens evolved from dinosaurs and with a little imagination you may see a primeval gleam.

The various tailored feathers have multiple functions from insulation against heat and cold, waterproofing in the rain and detecting air currents and sound vibrations. Each coloration is a splendid variation from speckled bronze or gold or highlighted by a phosphorescent bluish glow complete with tail feathers and soft fluffy down.

“Such pretty birds,” I’d say but with no vanity just getting down to serious grubbing and preening.

Their padded feet and claws with strong sharp toes are amazingly able to curl around a fence wire in a balancing act as well as scratch any exposed dirt or straw into a small frenzy looking for bits to eat.

Just think, they have no teeth but use an ingenious crop — gizzard digestion system that nature devised with a crop that hangs like a muscular bag at the bottom of the neck acting as the first storage step before moving into the stomach to a muscle called the gizzard filled with small stones or grit to grind or chew the food.

Undoubtedly, their most-prized priority is to produce eggs. In their prime they can lay an egg a day as part of their reproductive cycle in a complicated multi-step process before the last stage of adding a mineralized calcium shell around the eggs’ yolk and albumen (white). All the essential nutrients for a baby chick are passed on for human health benefits. There is only respect when eating a fresh farm egg with a deep golden yolk filled with nutrients from ingesting their natural environment as well as composting wonderful kitchen scraps.

Such a brilliant creation, so much to witness, to love with happy feelings returned.

What is a happiness quotient as a relationship?

A happiness quotient depends on an emotional mindset within the framework of experience and environment. It can be cultivated with special bonding with nature’s beings by understanding their contributions of belonging to a common life’s matrix.

Some of my happiest moments were spent watching the scurry and contentment of chickens. If I was in a sad mood, I would go to the rock in the middle of the coop yard and smile, mutually chatting as the chickens circled around me, their bright eyes checking their surroundings, some allowing to be picked up and stroked, cocking their little heads to make eye contact. Was this a crazy old woman or universal energy connecting?

What is more happiness to a chicken that by watching can become a center of such happiness to the observer? It must be their love of dust bathing … lying down inside a hole with fine dirt and kicking a dust storm with their feet, rolling their entire body, opening their wings so dirt permeates every inch until the caked body almost disappears. How healthy is this to eliminate any mites and oil buildup from preening? Also, sunbaking is beautiful to see as they stretch their bodies and legs and spread their wings like starlets on a beach to gain attention.

What’s more happiness than to be greeted by a strutting flock … plump bodies two-stepping on skinny legs, flapping their wings to be in line to get their share of vegetable treats like bananas their favorite? What better way to spend an afternoon in the garden flicking cabbage cutworms to them or playing hide-and-seek among the bean or corn plants, ignoring requests to stay out.

What kind of happiness percolates watching an integral chicken community with lack of ego, no pretension, no imposition, no isolation, no loneliness, no doubts, no depression … just social acceptance of shared basic needs.

Endlessly fascinating and so soul-pacifying turning their consciousness into ours.

Strange unknown ending

But changes happened when management decided that they were not economically feasible if feed cost was more than eggs’ sales. So, in early November, I received notice that they would be gone by a certain Saturday. There was no consultation with the caretaker but on our last supper together they enjoyed a pot of cooked warm potatoes on a cool night.

I waited that day to pass with apprehension. Sure enough, checking late afternoon they were not there … just a cold empty silent coop with scattered feathers mixed in with straw. No questions were asked nor did i want to know, so I had no idea what had happened to them only speculations.

Were they sent to another chicken farm or some small back yards where I can only hope they would be cared for like any other sentient being? If they were turned into stewing hens, then, hopefully, the diners would appreciate their meals because chicken is the most common food in the world. If by chance they were killed and buried, then this was not unlike war to be suffered by the innocent.

Happiness quotient in memoriam

Of course, I miss my “pretty chickie-chickies” their magnificent clamoring and a new realization that they have delivered a happiness quotient in memoriam where I can just close my eyes and they are back again … beautiful, energetic, expressive, vibrantly interested in their surroundings.

I am so thankful they were blessed chickens on this farm enjoying their precious freedom on an open range. The sad converse is millions of chickens who spend their lives in crowded 12 inch square battery cages unable to spread their wings, take dust baths, nest and suffer with skin abrasions. Big business operators for profits do not see the humanity of chickens but as meaningless fodder. Consumers should realize the sanctity of their lives.

Final Words

The other day I had to tearfully tell my neighbor there’d be no more fresh farm eggs. She said,” Why so sad … they’re only chickens, not like losing a dog, a real pet … now that would be really upsetting.”

Yes, it’s true; people are so prejudicially selective about which animals or birds to love with magi-like adoration. Pets have mutual feelings for us, too, they explain. Perhaps chickens can’t be considered as pets with lack of gratitude but they can offer an affinity for life by witnessing their passion to live life cycles worthy of our care and love like all nature’s creations deserve. The closer we watch, the more valuable they become.

This story will stand as a testament that chickens express a beauty, a community, a natural unity to honor and respect all life. Treat them kindly and fondly enjoy their relationships.

Annemarie Berukoff

bird
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About the Creator

Annemarie Berukoff

Experience begets Wisdom: teacher / author 4 e-books / activist re education, family, social media, ecology re eco-fiction, cultural values. Big Picture Lessons are best ways to learn re no missing details. HelpfulMindstreamforChanges.com

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  • Danielle Elizabeth Andrews2 months ago

    Oh Annemarie, I'm sorry! I hope that they've gone to another farm or become a backyard flock. I have a flock of chickens and they mean as much to me as any pets I've had throughout my life. Several of them got killed back in the spring when a skunk and then raccoon managed to get into the barn. Recently an owl grabbed one of my hens from a tree about an hour before dusk. Thankfully none of them have gone back up into the trees since that happened.

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