I have a tenderness for chickens. It may be due to playing Minecraft with my young sons, where I love to gather a flock of chickens, giving them love through seeds and collecting their eggs. I love that when you hold seeds, the chickens gleefully follow you for miles through the trees and grass, until you get to the little farm you created for them.
Maybe I like chickens because I grew up with a whole pile of red hens and one rooster. A pen full of Rhode Island Reds, and a chicken house that was hot and smelly. I would bravely collect eggs from the nests in the house, while the flock would watch from the roosts above. They would be half asleep, warm and safe, babbling, but not threatening.
In real life, over a month ago, I was happy when my oft-absent neighbor suddenly acquired a small flock of 7 chickens. Each a different pretty breed. I loved peeking over the fence at them, they were so cute. They grew and wandered, without a hen house. They somehow survived that first month of nights, and shortly, two of the chickens were discovered to be roosters.
Even when the roosters found their adolescent squeaky voices and began waking my husband and I 2-3 times in the wee hours of every morning for several weeks, I just couldn’t hold a grudge against those chickens. I didn’t mind listening to them babble and they even jumped their fence many times, wandering the sidewalks. Since my neighbor is nearly never home, it was I who led them back into their yard.
The little red hen, in particular, seemed to be fond of me and would run along eagerly behind me as I led her to her gate. Back home to her grey, white, black and mottled grey & white brothers and sisters. I felt ultimately admired as she followed me happily. And satisfied to know that I’d saved her by getting her back home.
One night I woke to the night-shattering sound of terrified hens. The cacophony went on for a couple hours, they screamed like children in the night, it was awful. Lying wide-eyed and whimpering in my bed as I heard what I guessed to be raccoons certainly ransacking the little open “pen” my (now it seemed irresponsible chicken-owning) neighbor had put together for his pets. A pen on the ground with branches for a roof, no solid walls, no roosts, no real protection from the night’s visitors.
I was heartbroken, listening, but having no connection to this mysterious new neighbor, I dared not go into his backyard in the middle of the night.
Waking bleary-eyed, I felt like I’d been witness to a crime. I peered through the fence throughout the next few days to see what appeared to be feathers everywhere and one lone red hen, standing amongst them. My heart felt so sad for her. I wished she would jump the fence so that I could sit and pet her and tell her I was so sorry for what she’d witnessed. I can’t imagine what her eyes have seen.
Currently, the little red hen, her spirit broken, meanders around the yard alone. Her sisters taken; her two protective brothers gone. She has taken to roosting at night in the tree in my yard, and I’m so happy to see her there.
I wrote this story because those little chickens were valued, by me – they were real little living loves who wandered and explored and didn’t hurt anyone. I feel sad when I think about them. I created this piece as a little rainbow celebration of those chickens – a worthy addition to Mother Nature’s living world – and I gave them their own house, too.
A print from the Wild Tenderness Collection. Your print will NOT have a printed watermark on it, of course.
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