Happy Valentine’s Day!

Happy Valentine's Day!

One of the things my chickens and I share in common is we all like “corny” things. With them, it’s “corny” corn, the real thing. With me, it’s “corny” jokes. Is there a better time to celebrate “corny” things than Valentine’s Day? I think not! Remember those Valentine’s Day cards children give to each other?!?

You’re “EGGsactly” right for me! Be My Valentine!

You’re a “GOOD EGG”! Won’t you be My Valentine?

It’s no “YOKE,” Valentine—I’ll “EGG” you on ‘til you say you’re mine!

With six of the sweetest hens ever in my backyard, how can I choose just one to be “My Valentine”? They are all so different, even those who are the same breed. Each brings my heart a special unique joy.

But I must admit Gracie has had a special place in my heart from the very beginning. Why is that? Perhaps it is her gentle and peaceful nature. Perhaps it is how she doesn’t mind when others take center stage. (You will notice how she is seldom the main character in these stories.)

Perhaps more than anything it’s because she wants to dance with me, and we both believe one day she will. Even though chickens can’t really dance ballet and even though old men with creaky knees make terrible dancers, we will dance together. We both believe in and look forward to that day…and also to you dancing with us, as “corny” as it may seem!

My Life With Gracie makes my heart “LEAP” and always keeps me “ON MY TOES”!

Happy Valentine's Day!

Pearl’s Life Coaching Flowchart #1

Pearl's Life Coaching Flowchart #1

With Valentine’s Day coming up this week, Pearl thought it might be good to offer a little help with answering one of life’s most challenging questions: “How can I tell if someone loves me so I can love them back?” So she has started calling herself a “Life Coach.”

To be honest, Pearl has become a little bored while waiting for another chance to do her newest standup comedy routine. She had even briefly considered working towards a college degree in her spare time.

Her first day at college was also her only day at college. It was one big disaster of a day.

She accidentally pecked holes all over her college entrance exam answer sheet which made it jam the scoring machine. The test proctors got really mad, and so she nervously nibbled her number two pencil to just sort of break the tension. No one laughed. No one gave her anything to eat at the end. No one gave her a comforting word or gesture. You’ll see why all of this is important later.

Pearl has vowed to return one day as a Life Coach and Motivational Speaker at the college. Pearl never gives up.

In my opinion, though she won’t admit it, this is mostly about having an opportunity to wear her new Valentine’s Day hat. (This might be to make up for not being able to wear a college graduation hat. You know, it’s the kind with the tassel. She does love hats…and tassels.)

Please keep in mind this is all from Pearl’s unique chicken perspective. Whether or not this carries over to a human perspective is something you can decide for yourself.

“Do they refuse to laugh at your best jokes?”

Since Pearl is a standup comedian, this is the first and perhaps the most important question of all. You should delight in each other’s company and at least share a laugh or two.

If they refuse to even give you a “pity laugh,” you probably want to watch out! They are likely to peck you on the head when you least expect it and then knock you off of the perch!

To be extra sure, tell your very worst joke. You’ll know which one that is because it’s the one that makes the other chickens roll their eyes and walk away. If they still laugh even at your worst joke, there is a strong chance they love you and want to be your friend!

Pearl’s Bottom Line: One of these days, you’ll be too old to do much of anything except share stories and laughs. Plan ahead for those sunny “retired-from-egg-laying” days!

“Do they bring you food?”

If they bring you food and have made sure it’s something you like ahead of time, this is almost a sure sign you can love them back!

You still need to be careful because they might look at you as food. This is not good. If they are licking their chops and drooling when they give you food, this is definitely not good. Run for your life!

Nevertheless. Don’t forget they may not have any food to give you. This is not so good, but it is understandable.

Even if they don’t give you any food, give them one more chance, particularly if they are a chicken since chickens do not have cupboards or refrigerators for keeping food.

Pearl’s Bottom Line: Bringing someone earthworms is undoubtedly the best way to show someone you love them. If you have no earthworms to bring them, let them have their first choice when you are looking for earthworms together.

“Do they let you rest your head on them?”

This is Pearl’s ultimate decisive question, and I tend to agree with her. This is how young chickens let each other know they feel safe with each other and support each other. For people it might be different, but the idea is still the same.

When you can just be yourself without having to pretend you are someone you are not…well, that is a gift. When just being with someone makes you forget all of your worries and woes…well, that is a gift too.

Pearl’s Bottom Line: Life can be tough for chickens, and even more so for people. If you find rest in someone else, love them back! Let them find rest in you!

I have a feeling “Let them find rest in you!” will probably lead into Pearl’s next flowchart which just might use a question something like, “How can I love someone without worrying whether they love me back or not?” It’s one of Pearl’s greatest life coaching skills and something she does very well: loving everyone until they have no other choice except loving her back. Like I said, Pearl never gives up!

My Life With Gracie…What Does It Mean?


What Does It Mean?

Chickens have tear ducts, but they do not cry. It’s not because they lack emotions like empathy and love. I want to believe they don’t cry because they hold onto hope so strongly.

Seeing Pearl care for Blanche while she was not well has convinced me even more that chickens have emotions. Have I ever told someone else, “Eat all you want, and when you’ve had all you want, then I’ll have some too”? Pearl did that every day for Blanche when she was sick.

This past weekend when I talked with a friend who had also raised chickens, he shared a suspicion I had only thought about but never voiced.

Blanche and Pearl are both Plymouth White Rocks, the breed you will often see raised for meat. To be economical, they must become ready for slaughter as soon as possible. They are bred to grow quickly to marketable size, not to be backyard pets with long and happy lives like I hope for Blanche and Pearl.

So I wonder if whatever is wrong with Blanche is a result of something unusual in her genes making her grow larger and faster than any of my other chickens including Pearl. Maybe she inherited extra “get big fast” genes.

She is also in a real home where she has already lived much longer than the majority of her kind. Elsewhere she would have never lived long enough for any genetic health problems to show. She would be gone, leaving Pearl to wonder where she was. Then Pearl would be gone too.

In the United States, the average slaughter age for a chicken is 47 days. In the European Union, the average slaughter age is 42 days, just six weeks. It’s more or less equal to the time period from New Year’s Day to Valentines Day, an incredibly short span to grow from a hatchling fluff of mostly feathers to a dinner-ready broiler.

Neither Blanche nor Pearl have ever realized their genetic instinct to eat “as if their lives depended on it” would have actually ended in their own deaths by being slaughtered in the poultry industry…if they hadn’t by random chance come to have a home in my backyard. (Their hatchling brothers never made it past their first day or two once it was determined they were males which are not used for meat.)

Blanche and Pearl both have had voracious appetites, far more than any of the others. I believe for both of them this has been genetic, just more so for Blanche. Even though there was ample food provided, it was necessary to separate the two of them from the others to save Emily’s life. Because she was the smallest, they would peck her head to make her back off from getting food so they could get more for themselves. This is how strong their desire to eat was.

Last winter, Blanche and Pearl were just a little over six months old, still maturing, and neither had laid their first egg. This winter, they are fully grown, and I think the cold has affected Blanche the most.

As the temperatures began to drop, so did her health. Likewise as the temperatures began to rise, so did her health. Many of her symptoms were ones I would have associated with old age: stiffness, slowness, lack of focus, unclear vision. These could be related to her body having been stressed and perhaps weakened internally by fast growth to such a large size, even when compared to Pearl.

The weekend Blanche was beginning to show positive signs was Super Bowl Weekend here in the United States. It was also when 1.25 billion chicken wings were served before, during, and after the big game. Many of those wings were from Plymouth White Rock chickens, like Blanche and Pearl. 1,250,000,000 is a huge number of chicken wings for just one day. Yet it is only a small part of the poultry industry.

And so I wondered, “Was this necessary? Was this needful?” These are questions I want to ask myself more often.

The previous Sunday, my church group served dinner to over forty homeless guests who spent the night with us as part of Shelter Week. Fried chicken was the main entree with sweet potatoes, collards, and a big honey-drizzled biscuit. Emily contributed eggs towards the chocolate and vanilla cakes I baked. For me, the questions “Was this necessary?” and “Was this needful?” were answered differently in this situation.

I’m not advocating a vegetarian diet, just a more humane diet. I’m not trying to make anyone feel guilty for having a good time with friends and favorite foods. There are truly alarming facts and photographs I could share, but I know you can find those for yourself.

I just want to be a friendly voice for Blanch and for Pearl (who would be heartbroken without her), and for all of their sisters and cousins who will never know the simple pleasures of a sunny day and a patch of ground to call their own.

Maybe with our stories, Gracie and the others will encourage more people to begin asking, “Is this food choice necessary and needful? Is it causing harm and suffering?”

My Life With Gracie helped me to be a better friend to those who have no hope without us.

I will do my best to post each Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated!

What Does It Mean?