For over three years our small flock seemed content. A few months ago, that all changed. First Miss Wacko, who often refused to come in at night, disappeared. Not long after surviving an attack by a red-tailed hawk, Big Red gave up the ghost.
In the days that followed Salt and Pepper seemed contented enough to have the coop to themselves and wander the confines of the pasture, escaping occasionally to make a break for the barn or the orchard. I must confess that Salt’s demise rests on our shoulders. One Saturday evening we drove to Guerneville to dance to the rockin’ rhythms of Michael Adams’ band, The Fargo Bros. By the time we got home, we were so tired, we forgot that we had not closed the small back door to the chicken house. The next morning, Pepper sat alone on the perch except for a pile of feathers in the corner.
Each morning we let Pepper out. She wandered alone, pecking here and there, a small black and white figure against the sea of green. Who knows if chickens get lonely, but they are flock animals after all—they naturally form communities. So we asked around until we found a farmer north of Ukiah who had young hens for sale.
We were so pleased to bring home a dozen new companions for Pepper—four white hens, tall but slender birds, three red hens much like Big Red, and five Araucanas, large birds feathered in rust, brown, and black in gorgeous patterns.
However, chicken psychology is obviously not our forte. Much to our surprise and dismay, Pepper rejected all attempts to introduce her to this new family. As soon as we began unloading the newcomers, Pepper set up a terrible squawk. As each chicken was set on the floor, her insulted and angry screeching grew louder. When I let her go, she immediately rose up like an avenging angel, striking out with her heavy talons at any chicken that dared approach her.
It has been five days now and each time we let Pepper out of her cage, there is a violent but short-lived struggle. Amid a great flapping of wings and flying dust, I manage to snatch her up and put her back in the large pet carrier that has become her refuge.
How strange that even chickens reject strangers, even their own kind, just because there’s something about them that’s just a little different—the wrong color, the wrong size, the wrong smell, the wrong behavior. This is especially intriguing to me in the midst of the ongoing battles over health care reform and immigration.
Don’t people realize how they sound? Underneath all the rhetoric, their words are pretty clear. “I take care of me and my own—you can darn well do the same.” Or “This is my place—you look different, you talk different, you even dress different and you’re not welcome here.”
Like dogs fighting over a few scraps or a none too smart chicken that doesn’t realize that a new flock might just be a blessing. Amid a great flapping of lips and a cloud of innuendo and insults, our leaders have refused to see that we’re all in this together, that we need each other. Many of them seem to have lost their way and sometimes they fool the very people who put them in office into following after them.
Worst of all, lots of people on both sides claim to be Christians. Maybe they read a different Bible than I do. The one I read says over and over that our differences don’t matter. It says we’re all part of the same family, brothers and sisters, children of the King. The Scriptures that I read say that everyone is our neighbor, even those we fear or despise. Again and again Jesus speaks of love and forgiveness and grace.
A chicken can’t read, but human beings have no excuse. No excuse at all.
Peace and blessings, Country Woman