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Creatures Are My Teachers

by Jay Rainey

I Am Chicken, Hear Me Cluck


Little-Chicken-Who-Loves-Me was a stunning mille fleur bantam. Translated it means, a thousand flowers. They have fluffy feet and burnt orange feathers, each one ending in a white and black dot. The black turns green when it catches the sun.


Little-Chicken loved massages, and followed me, jumping onto my shoulder, or tucking her head into my down vest. (I didn’t tell her it was stuffed with chicken feathers.) She was jealous when I petted other chooks and would grab my clothing, yank it, and say, “Grrr grrr.”


This wee hen would only lay her egg in the house, under the telephone. Some mornings she had a bun in the oven that she  squeezed in until I let the flock out of the Chicken Hilton. Desperate to get to her nest, like a human making an emergency sprint to the outhouse, she’d launch into flight, flapping madly toward my back door. I’d run to get ahead of her before she hit it. She’d lay her egg, eat millet, sip water, and head back outside.


One day, after this routine, she stood looking at the couch, saying, “Grr grr.” I said, “What? You’ve laid your egg, eaten millet, sipped water. What more could you want?” “Grr Grr.” Finally, the BSH (big stupid human) understood. She wanted me to sit down. I did. She leapt onto my lap, nestled down, and demanded a massage.


Once when I was away, Kathy took in Little-Chicken. She would fly into the fig tree, hop to the open window, launch onto the table, and peck the butter.


Little-Chicken-Who-Loves-Me was one of many who invented a language just for me. With eye contact and noises she never made with the others, she would tell me what she needed. The BSH would try the wrong solutions but eventually figured out her demands. When she knew I got it, she would teach me other tricks.


Each member of this mixed flock of purebred bantam show birds has? a unique personality. People often call chickens stupid. Maybe the meat birds are so because we breed them to be daft. Humans cannot farm animals that are smarter than we are.


I learned so much in 25 years of chicken farming. I may try harder to understand them than most, but I’m still just a BSH. These patient creatures trained me, and I am the better for it. 


– Jay Rainey

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