When I arrived at the Barn for chores this morning, I found the usual suspects wandering around: Pretty Polly was first to my ankles, followed by Eliza Jane. They waited their turns, meowing their annoyance at the fact that I always tend the chickens first. Our chicken enclosure is named “Chickago,” because we love to name things and we love to play with words. This morning, Chickago had three chickens inside the fence and four outside it.
Lately, the chickens have decided that they would rather roost in the trees than in the lovely dwellings Dad and I made for them last year. You would think that, with not one, but TWO chicken castles to choose from, complete with warm hay in a nesting area, food and water hanging in a separate space, and bars across under the roofs for non-nesters, the chickens wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. But, no… the fir trees just beside the enclosure have purloined the hens away from the safety of their castles and no amount of wing-clipping seems to keep them from hopping up into the overhanging branches as soon as the sun begins to sink behind the western mountains. These are hardy chickens… the fence is 6 feet tall and we have taken all possible hop-skip-jump options away, yet they still manage to get into the trees every night. I would be in awe of their determination and fortitude, except for one thing. Every morning when I arrive at the Barn, I find them wandering confusedly about outside the enclosure, pecking at the fence, unable to get back in. Not one of them seems to consistently remember that they could just drop back in by the same means that they jumped out. I have to herd them in through the gate every single morning, rain or shine, snow or sleet. Some mornings they go in easily. Other mornings, they run around… well, like chickens with their heads cut off… completely unable to figure out that they ought to go IN at the gate, rather than running in a wide sweep AROUND it and ending up under the storage shed. They crouch under there and cluck at me as if I was the problem. I have to walk around to the back of the shed, grab a tobacco stake, and beat the fence to scare them out of their “hiding” place and into the yard. Usually they jog into the gate with a slightly offended air, and I give them something to eat and check their water. This morning was a good one – all four wayward hens filed past me and into the gate without a major chase, and for that I was thankful. The girls often do chores with me in the morning, and with three of us even the most confused chickens haven’t got a chance. But when I’m alone it can get pretty frustrating… or entertaining, depending on your perspective and whether or not you’re in a hurry.
Now that I think about it, tending these chickens has taught me a few things about God. Truly. I’m not just trying to make up for the fact that I missed church today to stay home with sick children. In the Old Testament, lots of references are made to humans as sheep. I’ve never raised sheep, but I hear they’re very needy, and rather stupid. Chickens aren’t so needy – they won’t grow fleece that weighs so much that they fall over and starve unless someone shears them – but they sure can be rather stupid. God tells us to “feed” on His word because it is the Bread of Life. But how many of us intentionally read the Scriptures every day? Most Christians have at least one Bible in their homes, but how often do we enter into the pages and take in the meaning? Woodrow Wilson said, “I am sorry for the men who do not read the Bible every day. I wonder why they deprive themselves of the strength and of the pleasure.” I wonder why my chickens deprive themselves of the sustenance and safety inside their lovely Chickago, preferring to run around outside it where they are exposed to predators and have to forage for scarce food. I’m sure God wonders why so many of us continue to run around His word instead of into it. I’m sure He wonders why we are so reluctant to enter into a deeper relationship with Him, where there is love, hope and peace.
The dryer just played its “I’m finished!” tune. Time to go. I think I’ll take a Book with me to the laundry room…