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aka Big Mama,
So the daily drive into town to take Ian to the Village School has resulted in our starting a friendship with a delightful family. All four of them, plus a friend visiting from California, came over yesterday to help us with our “chicken rodeo,” which entailed moving all 15 of our two-month old chickens from where they have been living, close to the house, to a nearby pasture where they will be able to free range now that they are large enough to stay in the fence and are less likely to be carried away by hawks.
As much as I feel with every bone of my body that I want more community in my life, I am quite the novice at its orechestration. That, and I am certainly no expert at this chicken moving stuff. To have David and Lori, their sons, and friend Jim, come over for the express purpose of helping us carry the chickens and the chicken tractors out in the field felt kind of strange to me. Not altogether bad, but a bit like trying to pull off baking a cheese soufflé for company when you’ve never tried your hand at frying an egg.
But the moment David handed me our rooster Cecil with his eyes covered, and told me to hang him upside down by his feet while still covering his eyes, I was plunged into the adventure — ready or not. As I walked with the very passive Cecil hanging upside down, I realized I couldn’t get into the fence without help. As my husband, Will, unlaced the poles of netting, I could feel Cecil’s eyelids blinking against the palm of my left hand. It filled me with such a feeling of warmth for my golden, fluffy, and heretofore unwanted rooster, as I stood there and he hung there, eyelids opening and closing, as we waited together.
Much of the rodeo consisted of trying to coax reticent chickens through the 1x1-foot door of their moveable tractors into a pen where David would catch each hen, then hand her off to someone else who was charged with grasping her firmly under one arm, covering her eyes with a free hand, and carrying the chicken to the fenced pasture where Lori or I clipped a wing before setting said hen down in her new neighborhood.
At one point, when David was engrossed in doing something else inside the holding pen, three chickens tip-toed out of captivity. That signaled the start of the chicken-chasing portion of the rodeo. We tried to be calm, but I’ve not yet seen anyone pull off Zen chicken catching in the fluid manner of experienced beekeepers who can open beehives and do their work without need of protective gear.
Chased chickens are frenetic chickens, no matter how well you disguise your motives or slow your movements. They just know you're out to get them -- like everything else on this planet that savors the taste of chicken or their eggs--and when you think about it, they have a point.
Thank goodness there were eight of us to the fifteen chickens. If we ruffled a few of their feathers in the process of the rodeo, they didn’t seem to hold it against us. Soon they were all scratching and pecking and dust-bathing in the field, making the cooing sounds that contented chickens make. And the people dusted off their pants and sleeves, shook hands or hugged, and smiled broadly at each other before saying their goodbyes.
I’m fond of talking, as anyone who knows me can attest, but this Sunday I was reminded that there really isn’t any faster or more effective way of forging relationships than acting together in service of a common goal. A friend of mine in Austin was fond of quoting Sai Baba, saying: “All action is love.” Maybe that’s why we bond so well to those with whom we do things: it unites us in love. Even something as down-home as chicken moving.