We’ve owned backyard chickens for 2 1/2 years now and it’s been a lot of fun. We raised the four of our hens from day-old chicks in our living room, holding them multiple times/day, hoping that they would remain rather tame as they aged, used to being handled by hands young and old. We’ve lost two hens along the way (one to heat stroke and one to a stray dog). Henrietta and Sunny remain.
One day this weekend, we needed to leave the house in the afternoon and wouldn’t be back until well after dark. Our hens typically run free throughout our backyard (and we have poopy shoes to prove it!), but we close them in a coop for night. So, wanting to get them into the coop early, I thought I’d bring out a treat that we’ve been saving for such an occasion. It’s a suet cube made from mealworms and seeds and other good chicken-y items. I threw that into the coop and then tried to coax the birds in, but they were having none of it. Ira and I tried for a long time to catch those “tame” hens as they squawked and ran for their lives–because that’s exactly what they thought they were doing – they knew that suet cube was going to kill them.
For two days, they were terrified to enter their chicken coop because of this block of danger. Finally today, I went in to fish it out (they wouldn’t come down the ramp until I did so. Yesterday they stayed in the coop until noon when I finally gave them an alternate exit). I methodically broke the suet down to little pieces so that they would be brave enough to come closer to see the tasty mealworms (their favorite!) in the mix. Slowly, tentatively, if the pieces were small enough, they came and began to eat. Then I’d give a bigger piece and they’d be off, squawking through the yard. Ridiculous.
Not sure exactly why I’m sharing this story of ordinary life with chickens (at least our chickens), but it seems like an illustration of something – maybe the fears we hold that lead to irrational (if not worse) behavior; maybe something about the patience it takes to break down those fears for ourselves and for others; maybe just the ridiculousness that life sometimes is. Anyway, whatever fear we’re facing today, I hope there is some kind of courage and encouragement that allows us to look deeper and find some kind of mealworm to cling to like an anchor in the depths of it.