Benevolent Chickens?

3 chickensYears ago I interviewed a woman who had a sanctuary for needy chickens. She told me about sitting on her porch steps one afternoon and wiping tears off her cheeks. Her favorite in the flock jumped into her lap, cuddled up to her, and — the woman was sure — tried to console her. I believed her. Humans are not the only compassionate beings on our planet.

I had forgotten about that woman and her chicken until recently when my friend Elsa sent me a New York Times article: “What a Blind Chicken Can Teach Us About Humanity.” The author, Ellen Chase, noticed that one of her chickens was bumping into things and another was roosting next to her, following her through the grass, and staying with her nearly all the time. When the blind chicken disappeared, Chase found her under the hen house with her companion watching over her. One day in the garden, the kindly chicken grabbed a worm and set it in front of the blind one like a gift.

Elsa believes that chickens can care very much about each other, as Chase’s did. Elsa says that two in her own flock, Spreckles and Red, were best friends. After Spreckles suffered a stroke, Red stayed with her every day and slept in the same box with her. Then Spreckles died, and a month later Red, who had been in excellent health, died suddenly, too. “She pined away for her friend,” Elsa says. “People don’t usually think of chickens as having deep bonds, but the proof is right there.”

And so it is, or so it seems to me. The chickens are also proof that beauty is all around us. The trick is to see it. If we open our eyes, it’s everywhere. Even in a hen house.

Here’s Elsa’s picture of that good-hearted Red:
Kol chicken 1

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4 Responses to Benevolent Chickens?

  1. Dear Kristin – thank you so much for posting this! My grandmother, who grew up on a farm in eastern Texas, was given the job of collecting eggs, and she grew fond of several of the hens. There was one special hen who became my grandmother’s pet – a dangerous situation on a farm, as events proved: the hen was served for dinner, and my great-grandmother couldn’t understand why my grandmother was upset. I know why – and this is part of the mosaic of reasons why I am vegetarian. By the way, do you know this wonderful book?

  2. Kristin von Kreisler says:

    Thanks for your comment, Grant. I can certainly understand why your grandmother was upset! I just looked at your link and could also understand how the author learned from a chicken to be a better person.

  3. Linda Brandenburg says:

    Kristin, your article is so timely. I just had my first egg collecting experience while a friend was up country. Nine hens and 14 eggs in 2 and 1/2 days. Temps here are around 18 degrees F but the chickens are in a two room coop with a light and the radio playing for them. The chickens stay warm with each others’ company and contact all bunched together on a perch. They are super sociable with one another and as husband Jeff says “They must be happy in order to lay eggs.” I took them yams and yummy bread and they were eagerly feasting. Very talkative and curious.
    This also brought back memories of a friend’s rooster who used to sit on the top of her horse’s head and perch there for hours on end! Thanks again for a great article.

  4. Kristin von Kreisler says:

    Thanks for your comment, Linda. Imagine 18 degrees! Those poor shivering chickens, though they must be happy after your lovely feast. I love thinking about a rooster on the head of a horse. Such a patient horse!

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