For a two-page summary of this inspiring seven-page WingMakers essay, click here. Each individual on Earth is exploring in a physical body new ways of experiencing life.
An Anthology of Animal-Human Encounters, ed. Mitchell, Columbia University Press, Washington Post I looked at the Chicken endlessly, and I wondered. What lay behind the veil of animal secrecy? What follows is a personalized, candid discussion of what I know, what I think I know, and what I am unsure of but have observed relevant to the minds of chickens in their relationships with each other and with other species and with me.
Chickens evolved in the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains and the tropical forests of Southeast Asia where they have lived and raised their families for thousands of years. Most people I talk to had no idea that chickens are natives of a rugged, forested habitat filled with vibrant tropical colors and sounds.
Similarly surprising to many is the fact that chickens are endowed with memory and emotions, and that they have a keenly developed consciousness of one another and of their surroundings.
A friend and I had recently rescued a hen and a rooster in a patch of woods alongside a road in rural Virginia on the Eastern Shore.
The first night we managed to get the hen out of the tree, but the rooster got away. The following night after hours of playing hide and seek with him in the rain, we succeeded in netting the rooster, and the two were reunited at our sanctuary.
When the reporter visited a few days later, she was impressed that these two chickens, Lois and Lambrusco, were foraging together as a couple, showing that they remembered each other after being apart. Chickens form memories that influence their social behavior from the time they are embryos, and they update their memories over the course of their lives.
For instance, if I have to remove a hen from the flock for two or three weeks in order to treat an infection, when I put her outside again, she moves easily back into the flock, which accepts her as if she had never been away. There may be a little showdown, a tiff instigated by another hen, but the challenge is quickly resolved.
Some let down their wings for the chicks to come under; others arch their backs for them to climb upon; there is no part of their bodies with which they do not wish to cherish their chicks if they can, nor do they do this without a joy and alacrity which they seem to exhibit by the sound of their voices.
For this reason we do not allow our hens to hatch their eggs in the spring and early summer as they would otherwise do, given their association with the roosters in our yard.
All of our birds have been adopted from situations of abandonment or abuse, or else they were no longer wanted or able to be cared for by their previous owners.
Our two-acre sanctuary is a fenced open yard that shades into tangled wooded areas filled with trees, bushes, vines, undergrowth and the soil chickens love to scratch in all year round. It also includes several smaller fenced enclosures with chicken-wire roofs, each with its own predator-proof house, for chickens who are inclined to fly over fences during chick-hatching season, and thus be vulnerable to the raccoons, foxes, owls, possums and other predators inhabiting the woods and fields around us.
I learned the hard way about the vulnerability of chickens to predators. Once, a hen named Eva, who had jumped the fence and been missing for several weeks, reappeared in early June with a brood of eight fluffy chicks.
This gave me a chance to observe directly some of the maternal behavior I had read so much about. We had adopted Eva into our sanctuary along with several other hens and a rooster confiscated during a cockfighting raid in Alabama.
Watching Eva travel around the yard, outside the sanctuary fence with her tiny brood close behind her, was like watching a family of wild birds whose dark and golden feathers blended perfectly with the woods and foliage they melted in and out of during the day.
Periodically, at the edge of the woods, Eva would squat down with her feathers puffed out, and her peeping chicks would all run under her wings for comfort and warmth. A few minutes later, the family was on the move again. Throughout history, hens have been praised for their ability to defend their young from an attacker.
I watched Eva do exactly this one day when a large dog wandered in front of the magnolia tree where she and her chicks were foraging. With her wings outspread and curved menacingly toward the dog, she rushed at him over and over, cackling loudly, all the while continuing to push her chicks behind herself with her wings.
The dog stood stock still before the excited mother hen, and soon ambled away, but Eva maintained her aggressive posture of self-defense, her sharp, repetitive cackle and attentive lookout for several minutes after he was gone.
One morning, I looked outside expecting to see the little group in the dewy grass, but they were not there. Knowing that mother raccoons prowled nightly looking for food for their own youngsters in the summer, I sadly surmised they were the likely reason that I never saw my dear Eva and her chicks again.
Seeing there were only two eggs under her, and fearing they might contain embryos mature enough to have well-developed nervous systems by then, I left her alone. A few weeks later on a warm day in June, I was scattering fresh straw in the house next to hers, when all of a sudden I heard the tiniest peeps.
Thinking a sparrow was caught inside, I ran to guide the bird out.
Adjusting my eyes, I peered down into the dark place where Daffodil was, and there I beheld the source of the tiny voice - a little yellow face with dark bright eyes was peeking out of her feathers.
I kneeled down and stared into the face of the chick who looked intently back at me, before it hid itself, then peeked out again.
Former egg-industry hens tend to look back at me, not with that sharp, bright, direct focus of a fully confident chicken, but with a watchful opacity that no doubt in part reflects their having spent their entire previous lives in cages or on crowded floors in dark, polluted buildings that permanently affected their eyes before coming to our sanctuary.
From the very first, a large red rooster named Francis regularly visited Daffodil and her chick in their nesting place, and Daffodil acted happy and content to have him there. Frequently, I found him quietly sitting with her and the little chick, who scrambled around both of them, in and out of their feathers.
Though roosters will mate with more than one hen in the flock, a rooster and a hen will also form bonds so strong that they will refuse to mate with anyone else. Could it be that Francis was the father of this chick and that he and Daffodil knew it?
Rather, Francis seemed simply to be a member of this particular family.2 of an unbroken chain of life dating back more than billion years. Infinite space and eternal time may be beyond our grasp, but life on earth – while extraordinarily vast is –.
life and that's what being thankful means to me." "My mom has stage IV lung cancer which, if you don't know, is the most severe case of cancer. She was diagnosed at . When disaster strikes, gratitude provides a perspective from which we can view life in its entirety and not be overwhelmed by temporary circumstances.
Yes, this perspective is hard to achieve—but my research says it is worth the effort. Gratitude and Well-Being Gratitude is the most pleasant of virtues, though not the easiest. Gratitude is a mystery, not because of the pleasure it affords us but because of .
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Every morning I write what I 'm grateful for and then add to it whenever I feel like it throughout the day. Researchers have finally proven what common sense would already tell us – that keeping a daily gratitude journal can change your life!
Richard Emmons PhD, from the University of Berkeley, proved that as little as 3 weeks of your gratitude journal can positively shift your experience of life. Woo hoo! But there’s more to it [ ].