When I wrote one of my first blogs, Chicken Out, I shared one of the things I found most surprising as I began my adventure of raising chickens. Chickens can in fact fly. They certainly are no eagle, but they can fly. The funny thing is, they often fail to use this skill. They will run, scury and hide rather than spread their wings and just fly. Because of this, my chicken coop has high walls, but no top. I probably need to add something to keep the predators out, but it’s never seemed a necessary feature to keep the chickens from getting out. I also typically let my chickens out during the day to forage around my property. It gives them more space and activity and I keep hoping it will help with the hostility between my older and newer flocks.
My most recent flock is a set of 3 chickens. They co-exist with a slightly older flock of 7 chickens and a rooster. Much to my amazement, chickens do not just “get along.” The younger 3 spend much of their time huddled on a branch as the other chicks refuse to let them in as part of the flock. These three birds are truly “chickens.” They run and hide and rarely venture out of their safe space. If they forage, they stick together and hide along the fence line, far away from the older birds. So, I was quite surprised to watch another chicken adventure unfold before my eyes. I hadn’t opened the coop door yet, so all the chicks were just milling around the outdoor coop. Suddenly as I watched, one of the younger chicks sort of flew and hopped up onto a little barn I have inside the coop. She then proceeded to fly up to the top rail of the coop. It’s about 8 feet high. There she stood looking around, finally safe from the other nasty hens who pick on her and free. I imagined she would spread her wings and fly away. But alas, even a chicken that has discovered freedom is afraid to fly out on her own. She turned and flew right back into the coop and quickly scuttled away from the older flock and to the companionship of the other 2 hens.
Seeing the little hen standing bravely on top of her world, I so wished she could have realized all she had to do was turn the other way and fly. It would have been sad to let her go, but amazing too. It reminds me a lot of how I feel about my kids, especially my daughter who is away at college. Sometimes I see her standing on top of the world, ready to spread her wings and fly. Most days, she does. Some days she forgets she’s a chicken and she bravely steps out into the world. Some days she soars like an eagle. Some days she reverts to old habits, patterns and fears and drops right back into the coop. I know my little chicken will never turn into an eagle, but I’m hoping my daughter loves her newfound wings so much she will continue to soar and fly.
Over the past months, most of us have felt like our wings have been clipped. We’ve come to believe we are chickens and we can’t fly. But even timid, skittish chickens reach a point where they want to stretch out beyond their barriers. They long to rise to new heights and see the world from a different perspective. Recently, I was talking with my parents and they commented about how fearful they felt as they watched the news. A friend reminded them that watching the news and consuming fear introduces your body to trauma and your body reacts to that trauma. Often one of the ways it reacts is with reduced energy, heightened emotions and illness. We suggested they turn off the news and look at the world from a new perspective, to perhaps fly a little. The results have been amazing. They are more relaxed and sleeping better. Hopefully they will continue to grow their wings and fly away from the fear and toxicity rather than back in. It won’t be easy. It’s hard to break away from a flock, even after you realize you can fly. I think it’s time for all of us to stop being chickens. We need to push past the fear that has been keeping us locked in and look for opportunities to stretch our wings and soar. We’re not chickens, we can fly!