About two months ago, I finished my chicken coop and finally installed the young ladies – as much of a relief for them as it was for me, I’m sure. They spent their first day of relative freedom lurking under the weeds in their yard. I’d be suspicious of the wind and the sky, too, if I’d spent all my life inside a house.
Now that they’re used to life in the wilds of my urban backyard, they strut around their domain investigating interesting corners for the possibility of tasty bugs and bounding across the tangle of bent-over weed stalks. Their adult personalities are growing along with their feathers, and I find myself lingering over chores to watch them.
The smallest of the bunch, Andy the Mottled Ancona, is bright and inquisitive. When I come into the run with food or water, she takes her post on the tallest stump to watch me and comment on my doings. One of the Easter Eggers (Meep-meep, whose cheek tufts remind me of the roadrunner from the cartoon) is usually close behind, checking for tomatoes or other treats in my hands.
The other Easter Egger, a golden-brown hen my brother named Henrietta, sticks close to the Golden Laced Wyandotte, Nervous Nellie. Both of them prefer the other hens to investigate anything new and reassure them that all is safe before they’ll come over for treats. Nellie is especially wary of me and everything else in the world, as you might have gathered from her name.
Lenore the Black Australorp is a picture-book hen, with big brown eyes and a soft, round body. She trots right up to me for pets, especially if I might be holding food. Finally, Kitty the Cuckoo Marans, the largest and most talkative of the hens, has established herself as a calm presence in the flock. I like to imagine her constant commentary as a soft patter of discovery: “Oh! There’s a leaf here. I should peck it. Hmm, not as good as I’d hoped. Oh! Another leaf!”
In watching the hens establish their hierarchy and discover the changes each day brings to their little world, I’ve recommitted myself to taking time to simply exist and notice the world around me. This year’s vegetable garden was a total bust – I planted late, or not at all; the weeds got ahead of me and I never caught up; and long-awaited visits to friends happened to land right across the harvest periods for what I did get into the ground. Despite my management failures, red paste tomatoes and yellow cherry tomatoes are lurking under the tangle, and a flock of sparrows has moved in to enjoy the bounty. A delicate cypress vine is also winding through the 8-foot-tall lambsquarters, much to the delight of the local hummingbirds.
What reminds you to take life slowly and savor the small joys? Write to me at CWilson@Grit.com, and you might just end up in the magazine.
See you in January,
Caitlin Wilson, Group Editor, Rural Lifestyles