I have taken to calling my hens the “Bumptious Biddies."
Seems like every time I walk out the back door, they go to throwing themselves up against the wire walls of their coop, breast feathers poking out of the tiny squares of hardware cloth, in a determined endeavor to impress upon me the urgency of their demand for grazing freedom.
Most every day, their demands are met. They come skittering out of the coop onto the lawn and head for the first available soft patch of earth, often nabbing a wayward ant that had mistakenly thought itself safe under the coop door.
The first few times I ever took them out into the spring grass, when they were just a few weeks old, just little peeping balls of down, they already knew what their primary purpose was on this earth. It was to scratch!
And they came well-equipped for the purpose. Have you ever looked at a chicken’s feet? If you have, you’ll have no trouble understanding that their DNA is so closely related to that of the dinosaurs. A friend of mine took one look at their enormous, reptilian claws and exclaimed “Whoa! Chicken-zilla!”
To watch them is hypnotic. Kicking up the earth, first one foot, then the other; scratch, scratch, back up, hunt down, grab, repeat...always the backing up before the search into the newly upturned earth.
It is very hard to see over those beautifully plump, feathered breasts. And you’d think they were starving. They will go at it for hours. Never mind that I spend a small fortune on chicken scratch and Layeena meal! Only grubs, worms, and choice greens will do for the Biddies.
Living with them for a couple of years now, I have mulled over what it is that makes their digging so intriguing. I think it is the almost comical dance of rhythmic backing up.
One has to get oneself out of the way.
We spend the first half of our lives “plumping up” our egos, our sense of who we are; what is “right” and what is “wrong”; what comes easily to us and what we feel defeats us; what terrifies us and what makes us comfortable; who we let in and who we keep out. Then, in the second half of life, if we are lucky, we are given the opportunity to dig into the inner richness of our souls and the treasures of this universe, and we begin to divest ourselves of our once necessary armor.
To see over our well- feathered sense of selves, a backing up is required. That which is “wrong” may well be the only path to compassion; that which we thought would defeat us, may be the very thing that saves; comfort could well paralyze, isolate, and entomb; the one whom we thought we should keep out, might well be the Beloved.
Scratch, scratch, back up, hunt down...
Dig deep. Get out of the way!
Don’t let any morsel escape those bright, quick eyes.
Quick, grab Life!