Before I brought home six chicks, nobody told me how noisy chickens were. I knew roosters crowed, of course, but the hens? It starts in the morning with the “where’s that boy with our breakfast?” complaints and builds to the egg-laying announcements that I’m sure echo off the mountains. And at least once a day there is the alarmed squawking that brings the dogs running and at least one human member of the household outside to count chickens.
It goes like this: “One…two…three…four…five…(pause to look around)…where’s number six?”
When you share space with foxes and coyotes, you don’t name your chickens. We’ve been lucky so far and have all six still with us, but you never know. We thought we lost chicken number six to a feral cat last fall, but a day later she showed up at the gate.
You see, chicken number six won’t stay in the yard. While the other five chickens are content to hunt bugs within the fence-line or to lounge under the picnic table, number six is over the fence and scratching in the woods or, occasionally, wandering down the road. We’re not sure if she’s at the bottom of the pecking order or just an adventurous soul, but she’s always somewhere else.
I was watching number six in the woods today and it struck me that she seemed to be the happiest of the chickens. Since she takes the whole “free range” thing seriously, I imagine she is very well nourished. She has the juicy bugs, seeds and fresh greens that grow outside the fence all to herself. She is clearly fearless, having now had more than one encounter with cats that all end in the cat being told in no uncertain terms to back off. And she refuses to allow anything to limit her freedom.
Today number six is out there on her own, but every now and then the others follow her over the fence. Maybe all chicken souls are a bit adventurous, but only number six has the courage to lead the way. When I think of the women who have inspired me to nourish myself, be fearless and embrace freedom, I am grateful that there are number sixes out there.
Which chicken would you be like? Would you be scratching your way through the woods, or eyeing freedom from inside the fence? Who inspires you to test your wings? I’d love it if you’d share in the comments!