It's nearing a week now that the hens have been here with us and they are already up to almost a dozen eggs in production. What's been more important and enjoyable, however, is seeing how my daughter interacts with and enjoys them. She has anxiously been waking me up in the morning when it is time to let them out for the day, reminding me throughout the afternoon that we need to check for eggs, and often even just sits by their outdoor run feeding them clover from the yard, enjoying their company. She is enthralled with having them and I am so glad they are making her summer an interesting experience.
Watching the chickens myself has become something of a meditative awareness practice, as I see them just be chickens without all their hurry and bustle to accomplish something or get somewhere as we often do in life. It's a relaxing, peaceful afternoon when I can sit with them and listen to their soft cooing, calling them by their new names and watching them explore their new home.
We have a total of six birds that are accompanying us in beginning our farm here, while the garden gets off to a slow but clightly less pitiful start than last year. I think it's going to be another bumper year for cucumbers, and hopefully the girls will get to enjoy some of the bounty with us. These birds help be remember not to get too stressed out or flighty as I continue to look in earnest for a job to help support my family. I have been applying at slightly random things lately, sort of letting my heart guide what feels like might be the right opportunity. I've been applying at the local hatchery, for the Dairy Farmers council here in town and also for a lot of writing jobs as well, still trying to make a go of this business, which I am very fortunate to have had to help support us through these tight times. If I could only bring my writing up to where I can make a few hundred a week instead of a month, I think I'd be able to support us on this lifestyle and still be home to meet the needs of my homestead and family, which would be spectacular. My spirits are surpirisingly up after receiving rejection letter after rejection letter, and I think the addition of these birds and watching how they just focus on attending to their basic needs has helped me maintain focus myself. It is getting easier, as the time goes on, to adapt into a new rotuine and just "be" instead of trying so hard to "do" all the time.
The personalities of our birds are starting to show as well as they get used to their new home. Knoxville, our Golden Buff, is the bravest among the bunch and is always the first to come in and out of the henhouse and try new treats we stick through the wire of the pen. She's a bit of a daredevil, hence her name, after Johnny Knoxville of Jackass fame. We've seen her jump from the nest boxes clear down to the floor with seemingly little regard for sanity or safety. She is our girl who lives life to the fullest.
In contrast, we also have Florence and Spiker, two black Australorps, who kind of sit in the background trying to figure out what is happening before they get involved. I can relate. Sometimes all the activity can be confusion if not outright frightening.
Little Ann is the largest of our chickens and was named after a dog from Where The Red Fern Grows by my daughter, Lexi, presumably for her kindness and loyalty. She's also quite curious and has already made a grand escape and journey to the farm next store, exploring the cow pasture and cow stall to some degree before Lexi scooped her up and brought her back home. It's so great having neighbors with chickens to whom you can turn in moments of panic and nothing quite breaks the ice like chasing a Buff Orpington around barefoot in a pastureful of shit. I feel more a part of my community every day.
Our other ladies, Levi the Ameracauna and Koalbey, the Wellsummer, have taken more of a laid back approach to life, just laying eggs, tasting stuff and scratching around being chickens. The seem otherwise completely unphased by the drama that unfolds around them. There are lessons to learn there from watching them too.
Having chickens has definitely deepened my spiritual practice, helped me enjoy more of the present moment and focus less on the constant worrying about work, the weather, money or whatever is making me tense. It's almost meditative watching them just hunt for food and lay around, and I am glad I have some time free this summer to watch them adjust to their new home here at the Semi-Farm. They are stretching me in ways I can't even explain, from encouraging me to keep the house cleaner, slow down and plan life less, and learn to try new things like cooking for my family, which I have done twice this week without any major complaints or making anyone sick. It's amazing the lessons animals can teach us if we just open our eyes to how THEY do things without all this emotional baggage to weigh them down.
Even though they are confined my chickens are a lesson for me in freedom from overthinking and planning, helping me see the possibility and peace in routine and the freedom that can come from changing the way we look at our circumstances.
Thanks, little birds, for your valuable lessons. And tasty eggs too.