While perusing Pinterest this morning putting together an idea book for a client, my feed was scattered with photos of backyard chickens and tips for raising them posted by a friend and fellow designer in Southern California. Each one made me smile as it brought back memories of a childhood filled with the joys of growing up on my family's small farm and my grandmother’s 11-acre avocado grove, and the pet chickens that were a fixture at both our homes. Plump feathered individuals happily scratching through the undergrowth searching for worms and other goodies, their excited cackles announcing the discovery of an unearthed treat; their inquisitive stare and the sounds of their satisfied clucks and hums as they ate their way through a pile of freshly picked nasturtium – a favorite snack of my grandmother’s hens; the proud announcement at the arrival of each newly laid egg. “The girls are singing!” my grandmother used to say.
The joys and lessons of keeping a flock of backyard chickens extend far beyond the rich golden yolks of fresh laid eggs from hens made fat on a diet of greens, worms and other riches plucked from a backyard garden. My childhood growing up with pet chickens, geese, ducks, (dogs and cats of course) and an assortment of other random birds, reptiles and other creatures that found their way to us was always an adventure and the responsibilities I learned caring for these creatures, I believe, have made me a more compassionate and respectful person.
I recall memories of my 6-year-old self exploring my grandmother’s yard, toting around a resigned hen; burying my hands and face in their soft feathers; the tickle of their beaks on my palm as they pluck chicken feed out seed by seed, the softness of their neck feathers brushing the edge of my hand; the peaceful sound of their sing song clucks as I lay near them in the grass, me staring at the clouds and the sun shining through the leaves above, them performing their daily chicken duties -- the world seemed a simpler place. Perhaps the most important gifts we can receive from our feathered egg-laying friends is the art of living in the moment and of taking joy in the little things (like finding a grub under a pile of leaves). And singing, always singing.
For a link to the photos that inspired these happy memories check out Shellene Mueller's Chicks and Coops Pinterest Board and chicken enthusiasts will appreciate this post about Chicken Talk from The Flip Flop Ranch.