Thursday, May 15, 2008

Another Lesson from My Chickens

I have been surprised that so many friends and relatives tell me they enjoy my chicken stories! And I will confess that right now I miss my feathered friends and their antics. Maybe it’s because I learn a lot about myself from watching them. Here’s one of those chicken lessons.

Not all is sweetness and light in the chicken pen. I have learned from my observations of coop life that the terms hen-pecked, pecking order, and old biddy have very real meanings. This is especially evident when I add a new hen to my fowl community. It’s not pretty. The older hens, secure in their established pecking order, make sure the newcomer knows her place.

The welcoming routine is both fascinating and horrible. The new hen is dropped into the pen. Exhausted from struggling against her human captor, she flees to a corner and crouches. At least two of the old biddies strut over, cocking their heads as they fix their beady eyes on the new chicken. They watch her closely, and if she dares to move too quickly, they’ll deliver a strong peck to keep her down.

Eventually they will decide that she’s sufficiently cowed, and they’ll walk away. When the new hen gathers her courage, she’ll cautiously stand, shake out her feathers, and make her way to the food trough. There she’ll be met by a hostile ring of hens who will stick their tail feathers in her face and make sure she doesn’t get a bite until they have first stuffed themselves.

For the next week, the new hen is ostracized and subjected to hostility that might be compared to a junior high girls’ clique at its very worst. When the pecking order is firmly established and the senior hens are sure the newcomer understands it, the new hen is finally accepted into the brood and life goes on.

After watching this agonizing ritual a couple of times, I decided that I would try to help the next tortured newcomer during her adjustment. I took out crusts of stale bread. The older hens crowded near the fence, ready to jump for their share. I threw some in for them, and then while they were busy eating, I lobbed some extra big pieces to the newcomer who was hiding in the back corner of the pen.

I wish I could tell you that my kindness was gratefully acknowledged—that the abused one grabbed the airborne morsel and feasted in peace. But it didn’t happen that way. The new hen was so terrified that she didn’t even look up to observe the falling gift. Driven by fear, she ran away. The food dropped to the ground and was soon gobbled up by the undeserving tormentors.

I tried again and again, with each new pen addition. The same thing happened every time. First I was shocked, then sad, and then frustrated Why wouldn’t those silly hens look up and see their help and relief coming?

One day it dawned on me that I may be like my misguided fowl friends. Maybe my terror over life's uncertainties sends me running wildly just when God is trying to help me. And maybe I'm so panicked during my hard times that I don’t recognize the blessings God is showering on me. Could I be letting others gobble up the good things God intended for me while I cower in faithless fear?

My chicken lesson has given me new resolve. When I’m afraid, I’m going to look up. I’m going to watch for God’s help and recognize it when it comes.


Mary Ann Melton said...

What a great object lesson! Loved it!

April said...

I love this! What a great reminder to look to God for the help we need!