Well. I should have known. The chicken yard is an eerily reasonable facsimile of real life, a messy microcosm of worst selves laid bare for all to see.
There we were, peaceable kingdom and all, enjoying the last thin rays of the setting September sun, the littles and the bigs alike soaking in the latest of summer sunbaths.
The crows were sitting sentinel in the oaks above, reminding me with the occasional raucous caw that I had not yet tossed them their afternoon ration of peanuts. Ground birds flitted through the bushes – I think we just had a flock of titmice arrive, wearing their pointed little caps and playing hide and seek in the oak trees.
I set my book down just to enjoy the symphony of cawing, clucking and peeping. Did you know that birdsong really is good for the soul? In a 2019 article, The Guardian reported that scientists at the University of Surrey discovered that, “of all the natural sounds, bird songs and calls were those most often cited as helping people recover from stress, and allowing them to restore and refocus their attention.”
I believe it. It was a moment of perfect contentment.
Best of all, the two littles continually browse the chicken yard, delighting in every discovery. They trill, they coo, they seem to say “Isn’t this world just amazing?”
Happiness is that thing measured only in moments. While hardship sticks its foot in the door for long stubborn seasons and we can find ourselves treading the waves of grief for all endless time, happiness is that pixie that slips in with a grin and then away with it, leaving us just that shadow of awareness that we were, ever so briefly and completely content.
And so. Just a few hours later I came outside to button down the coop for the night. It was already dark – that thief known as autumn is not fooling around here, it’s stealing light from us every morning and night. I couldn’t see what was happening in the coop but I heard a what sounded like a problem. A scuffle. A turf war. And then a huge thud! It might have been Satan falling like lightning from heaven.
And indeed, sin entered the world. All had been so perfect in our little garden, but that hen Ginger must have taken a bite of an apple. For three blissful nights she let Beauty and Peggy share her roost but on the fourth night, Ginger turned into a mean girl and pecked them until they plunged down to the counter top, where they’ve cowered every night since.
Space on the roost isn’t just about status. Chickens instinctively seek the highest perch as protection against predators. And, being perfect little Darwinians, they work that into the pecking order equation. For the moment, the two littles are warily cooling their heels every night under Ginger’s foreboding glare.
Why ya gotta be like that, Ginger? Ah, human – or rather – chicken nature. Wild kingdom. Survival of the meanest.
Ginger’s big surprise may come when the day arrives that these two littles are suddenly as big as she is. And who knows what happens then?
In the meantime, I just have to break it to them that while the meek may inherit the earth, they probably aren’t gonna rule the roost.