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Finding My Way: The Secret Life of Chickens
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FINDING MY WAY

Finding My Way: The Secret Life of Chickens

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Recently my wife and I decided we needed more humor in our lives, so we bought ten chickens.

Chickens are ridiculous—sort of an animal version of Steve Martin singing “King Tut.” They parade around as if they possess some vast importance, despite having a brain the size of a pea.

Our chickens are full-grown. We purchased them from a busy commercial hatchery. In their prime, they produced a steady stream of high-quality eggs. But time betrays us all, and eventually their production began to fall off. In a business that tightly measures product output vs. maintenance cost, that made them expendable.

Which is where my wife and I come in. I suppose we’re now a retirement home for a few chickens that have lost a little of their laying oomph, but aren’t ready for soup stock yet.

Considering that our new birds have only one real function in life—laying eggs for the benefit of our grandkids’ breakfast burritos—they certain seem to have full and busy lives. They walk around as if they had somewhere to go. They cluck and gurgle contentedly as they stroll their pen, kicking up little bursts of dust as if size mattered.

Every poultry owner I know says the same thing: when you have a spare moment, it’s great fun to relax in a lawn chair and just watch the chickens.

It’s not that they do anything more than walk around as if everything depended on red wheelbarrows glazed with rainwater, with their jerky high-stepping gait, while chatting among themselves with that half-gargle, half-purr voice. It’s nothing really, and yet for entertainment value they beat almost anything on Netflix.

The chickens we bought did not previously know each other. The first time they met was when we unboxed them in our enclosure.

I bring this up because it’s been interesting to watch them sort themselves out. After all, the term “pecking order” originates from chickens.

And for good reason. Almost immediately they developed a thorough understanding of who’s the boss, and where each bird stands in the hierarchy. I knew this would happen, but I assumed there would be a certain amount of fussing along the way.

But not so. They all just looked at each other and apparently figured it out. I find this fascinating, and I have no idea how it works, but I know it often happens the same way with people.

Which brings me to my last point. As I watched our chickens do their chicken-business in their new home, with blissful ignorance of the amount of work my wife and I invested in setting it all up before they arrived, along with the ongoing care we provide them each day, it occurred to me that in a lot of cosmically funny ways, chickens are to us as we are to God.

We go about our business with blissful ignorance of the carefully crafted world He created for us, and we make our messes with the dimwittedly certain knowledge that somehow it’ll all magically get fixed.

We strut and cluck as if what we’re clucking about is actually important: such as who will be the head chicken, and who the minion chickens are, and which ones will live at the bottom of the pecking order.

And, like chickens, we high-step through our days with the certainty that we’re all the center of the universe. And since everything appears to revolve around us, we decide that it actually does. Though this kind of lame-brained arrogance is obviously incorrect, such stupidity may not be entirely our fault, because, from God’s perspective, we all have a brain the size of a pea. What else can you expect from such currently limited creations?

So even though I know it’s ridiculous, ever since we got the chickens I have this image of God pulling up His lawn chair in the evening to watch us, the humans, as we cluck and strut around in the pen He created for us. I suspect that more often than not He finds us to be unintentionally entertaining. If only we could just get rid of that pecking order nonsense.

Chris Huston is an author and award-winning columnist living in the Magic Valley. Connect with Chris on Facebook and Instagram at Chris Huston-Finding My Way and at chrishustonauthor.com.

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