Every Life

Every Life

This is a visual and thematic companion post to one earlier this week. Together these are about being shelter and giving shelter, two things particularly important for those in need during the harsher winter season.

For the longest time, wrens were my primary backyard birds. It was always enjoyable to sit in my sunroom and watch them looking for food and doing all of the things wrens do.

This was before my chickens moved in with their bigger presence when compared to the little wrens. But they all get along quite well.

The chickens don’t see the wrens as competition for resources, and the wrens don’t see the chickens as big selfish backyard bullies. The wrens, the original “owners” of my backyard, actually enjoy sharing the space because chickens love to scratch the ground for food.

When the chickens get excited with their scratching and digging, they send a lot of smaller bits of grain and seeds in all directions. A good amount will end up outside the run for the wrens to pick up and eat.

Early in the morning, I will sit with my chickens while they are eating their breakfast salad and watch the wrens collecting what the chicken activities from the day before left for them. The wrens seem not to be bothered by my presence now because of the chickens.

The wrens don’t do anything to benefit the chickens or me, at least not anything I can see. Still, we do appreciate the wren songs, and we do enjoy watching their quick little hopping and darting movements from place to place. The backyard would just not feel the same without their joyful presence.

There have been times when wrens have visited inside the chicken run. Perhaps it’s to evade a larger predator or to get a little closer to the chicken’s supply of grain and seeds. But my chickens aren’t territorial about their home. In a way, they are just backyard visitors too.

Chickens don’t mind sharing. (The only real exception is Gracie’s keen interest in getting more than her fair share of pomegranate!) In general though, they are just very good-natured towards other birds, even the ones who are smaller and generally insignificant, at least from their perspective.

To my surprise, there have been times, usually in the cooler fall and spring seasons, when I have opened the chicken coop in the morning, and a little wren has flown out. It’s just a random thing, and I’m unsure if it was intentional or accidental.

My chickens didn’t really care how the wrens came to share their home for the occasional night, they just enjoyed them for who they were.

Maybe they lost their way after their home was destroyed, and it got dark earlier than expected while looking for a new one. Maybe they just needed a safe protected shelter for the night before migrating to new territory. Maybe they simply needed warmth and companionship.

Who cares? What matters is they are there now and they are birds too.

My chickens don’t get anything back from the wrens as far as I can tell, but they aren’t bothered by it. Nor do my chickens strut around as if the wrens should feel indebted to them as the superior and “wealthier” backyard bird.

My chickens seem to understand how they, along with the wrens, are both together my beloved birds.

My Life With Gracie taught me every life matters regardless of how insignificant it may seem.

Maybe there are opportunities “right in your own backyard” to be shelter and give shelter to others. You will, I believe, receive much more back than what you give. Each post shares a glimpse into my journey as a writer and illustrator. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated!

Sheltering One Another

Sheltering One Another

January and February are our coldest months here in coastal Virginia. Fortunately I knew ahead of time this current cold spell was coming and had prepared by adding extra insulation and wind-blocks, extra straw and bedding. Everyone had a special spot to hunker down out of the wind.

Still it was difficult for me to settle down to sleep with the nighttime temperatures dropping rather dramatically for my chickens. I reminded myself about how chickens are naturally designed to protect themselves: higher body temperature than people, fluffed out feathers to act like insulation, heads tucked conveniently under a wing. I ran through all of the biological facts, but that was not enough.

Then I remembered perhaps their greatest advantage: how they huddle together for warmth and protection.

Before they all figured out how to use their ladder to go up to their new coop for the chilly spring nights, my first young chicks would huddle down in a protected corner underneath.

The smallest would always be on the inside closest to the wood base, always in the most protected spot. The largest and strongest young chicks would always be on the outside of the huddle, holding just their heads above the others to watch for danger. They were prepared to defend each other while everyone was being sheltered by someone else.

Sometimes they would just huddle together like this to rest after a busy playtime together! Everyone seemed to have someone else’s head resting peacefully on their own neck or back while napping.

As the sun began to set, they would sing soft little bedtime songs to one another. Partly because it was soothing, and partly because it let everyone know they weren’t alone, just a close huddle of precious little lives, all sheltering one another.

Now they are grown and although they may squabble about who gets the biggest piece of melon or the largest share of the mealworms, when it comes to keeping each other safe, they put all of their differences aside, and they huddle as one true flock so everyone will make it safely through the night.

Emily, the littlest of all and most easily intimidated when there is a tasty treat up for grabs, is so well-protected, you wouldn’t know she was there between Gracie and Bessie.

When I think of them and the harsh weather, I can’t help but remember the little chicks they once were, climbing the ladder to their coop for the first time and still learning how to shelter each other in their new home. Somehow they figured it all out.

If only people could shelter each other more often like this. We can, you know…when we learn we are all just one flock and then say to one another, “Let me be your shelter.”

My Life With Gracie reminded me there are times when we must be shelter for one another.

Each post shares a glimpse into my journey as a writer and illustrator. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated!

Curious Tail Feathers

Curious Tail Feathers

If you watch and study chickens long enough, you begin to know exactly what they are thinking and feeling by their tail feathers. They are like little flags sticking up and signaling the world all of their thoughts and emotions.

Since people don’t have tail feathers, I think this is called “body language” rather than “tail feather language.” Chickens don’t have a name for it.

This wasn’t anything I really thought about until I started working on some of the scenery and props for “The Rose Garden Princess,” our own backyard ballet production. With scrap lumber and paint buckets and tools spread out everywhere, tail feathers were practically all of my chickens I could see sometimes!

There were chicken tail feathers up, down, sideways. There were chicken tail feathers spread out, gathered together, fanned apart. Everything means something different about what is happening and how they are feeling.

It’s no surprise how protective chickens are of their feathers, particularly their tail feathers. They are one big way chickens have to communicate with each other…and with anyone who is willing to learn their “tail feather language.”

But there was one tail feather movement Amelia was making I just could not figure out. It was sort of a straight up in the air semi-circular movement first one way and then the other. So I asked her what it meant.

She looked at me as if I had asked the most ridiculous question in the world. “Do you mind? I have an itch back there!”

And so it goes. Never a dull moment! Be curious. Be creative. Be adventurous.

My Life With Gracie gave me great pleasure while I watched the curious tail feathers of my chickens discovering our next creative adventure.

Each post shares a glimpse into my journey as a writer and illustrator. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated!