This is a follow up to a previous post about “Omelette People” and “Cupcake People.” You may want to read that one first if you missed it.
One evening as everyone was preparing for the night, I picked Gracie up and held her close like I sometimes do when I’m helping her find the best nighttime roosting spot.
I whispered to her, “Can chickens tell who is an ‘Omelette Person’ and who is a ‘Cupcake Person’ just by studying them?”
I’m not sure why I whispered. It just seemed like the kind of question that needed to be whispered.
“It’s not something chickens are supposed to discuss with anyone who isn’t a chicken,” she whispered back.
“I don’t understand.”
“It is Old Chicken wisdom, like Old Chicken language.”
“I didn’t know there was Old Chicken language.”
“Yes, you know about it, or at least you’ve heard it spoken before.”
“When was that?”
“Do you remember the morning after Blanche had passed away? And Pearl stood at the top of the ladder after you opened the coop door? Do you remember how she was calling out, but you couldn’t understand what she was saying? She was calling out for Blanche. That was Old Chicken.”
“I remember now. It was the same way she was talking to Blanche earlier that week when they were getting settled in for the night. Pearl said something to her that I couldn’t understand. It was low tones and sounds I had never heard before. And then Blanche moved away from her primary protector spot and Pearl took her place.”
“Yes, that was Old Chicken too.” Gracie watched the others to make sure they weren’t paying attention to our conversation. “She was telling Blanche not to worry and she would be the one to protect both of them.”
She gave me time to think about all this.
“It was a very private moment between the two of them. That is why she spoke in Old Chicken. It was so no one else would understand. Not even other birds can understand us when we speak that way.”
“Gracie, I had no idea.”
“Please don’t ask me to teach it to you.”
“There’s really no need. And I don’t want you to break any of the chicken rules. I had a feeling what Pearl said meant something like that. I could tell how deeply sorrow cut into her heart.”
“So you are fine with only understanding New Chicken?”
“Yes. Chickens are remarkable. But I must admit to you I miss the time when I didn’t know all these things. I miss the time when we would just talk about your ballet dancing and chasing crickets across the yard. Life is never quite as simple as what we would like it to be, is it?”
Gracie looked up at me. Of all my chickens, she is the only one who looks so deeply into my eyes. She smiled.
“I miss those days too,” she said. “I love when you draw us as young chicks. Your drawings take me back to those simpler times, times that I miss too.”
That evening I had learned more than expected. Because Gracie had sidestepped my question about whether chickens can tell who is an “Omelette Person” and who is a “Cupcake Person,” I knew the answer had to be “Yes.”
My biggest questions remained unanswered. “Why do chickens still treat everyone the same, even when they know who will use their eggs selfishly and who will use their eggs generously? Why do they still give their best and treat everyone the same?”
It is the chicken way, but not always the people way. I still wanted to know why. Right in my own backyard were more mysteries than I could find anywhere else.
My Life With Gracie taught me there is more to life as a chicken than I had ever imagined.