My Life With Gracie…When Chickens Learn About Halloween

When Chickens Learn About Christmas

My chickens had been listening to The Big Boy At The End Of The Street. He had been explaining Halloween to The Little Boy At The End Of The Street.

Gracie and the others had heard all about having the scariest costumes. They had heard all about saying, “Trick Or Treat!” They had especially heard all about getting their Halloween bags filled with treats.

And they decided it would be a fine thing for chickens to participate in Halloween as well. They may not have understood everything they had heard, but they definitely understood the part about getting treats. And if they needed to have scary costumes to get treats, well then, that was a fine thing too.

“Are you sure you want to have scary costumes?” I asked. “Why don’t you just dress up as sweet and pretty ballerinas and princesses for Halloween?”

“We can do that any day. Halloween is special. The Big Boy told The Little Boy Halloween costumes are supposed to be scary.”

I began to suspect I would be fighting a losing battle if I tried to change their minds about anything they had heard. It felt strange they would listen to what someone else said rather than me. They never even asked me about Halloween.

It really was mostly about the treats and what they needed to do to get the extra treats. Nothing was going to stand in their way. Chickens love treats.

As if my treats aren’t good enough for you! I thought it but would not say it aloud. After all, I’m not the only person who ever thought someone else had things better off than me when actually they didn’t.

“We are going to have a Scariest Halloween Costume Contest too,” added Pearl.

“You mean you are going to dress up like stray cats, foxes, and opossums?” I asked.

“Scarier than any of those. The neighborhood songbirds told us all about what is really scary for chickens,” said Bessie. She had already defended everyone from a stray cat, and so surely she knew about scary.

“So you are going to listen to what songbirds say about what is really scary for chickens? And you’re not going to tell me?”

“They have seen more of the world than we have. You are the judge,” said Gracie.

“So you can’t know ahead of time,” added Amelia.

“Then after the contest, you get to take us trick-or-treating with the other kids,” said Emily. “That part will be the most fun for you.”

My chickens had everything all planned out. They were going to make their own scary costumes. Gracie and Emily would be one team. Bessie and Amelia would be another team. And I was going to have the time of my life “getting” to take them trick-or-treating around the neighborhood with “the other kids.”

Pearl would help both teams as a “creative consultant” because she was a collector of scraps and treasures that could be used for making costumes. Pearl had experience since she had put on several comedy shows for us right in our own backyard. (She has also been molting, and even though her feathers were beginning to grow back, she was still too sensitive to wear a costume.)

So that was that. We would have a contest, a real contest, and there would be voting for the winner. Then they would go trick-or-treating with the kids on our block. My chickens should fit right in. No one would know they were really chickens under their costumes. It would be their one night out of the whole year to discover how people lived outside of their own backyard.

I sensed disaster in the making.

Would I get arrested for trying to pass off chickens as children just to collect candy from my neighbors? Would my picture be on the front page of the next morning’s newspaper? I could already imagine the headline: “Candy Thief Uses Chickens Posing As Costumed Children To Steal Halloween From Unsuspecting Neighbors.”

But my chickens had decided all of this before any of them even told me the least little peep about it. I had a suspicious feeling Pearl was the mastermind behind all of this. But who was I to crush their creativity or destroy their dreams of bags overflowing with treats?

I would soon learn “scariest” for chickens is very different than “scariest” for people!

Tomorrow: The Scariest Halloween Costume Contest. (And you, our readers, get to vote! As a bonus, there will be some Halloween cards to print and share!)

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

My Life With Gracie…Smallest Voices

Smallest Voices

Emily, my bashful Little Lady, was unwilling to pose for this illustration, and so I will honor her wishes even though today’s story couldn’t be told without her. She is shown here as still a young chick with her first distinctive feathers developing which provide beautiful camouflage.

When Emily and Amelia joined the four others, they ended up in the middle of the pecking order. They would even take on larger chickens to hold onto their place in the middle.

But that lasted only a few months for Emily. She could only puff out her feathers so much to appear larger and only stand but so tall to appear more assertive. She was unable to hide her true gentle nature from the others. She ended up on the bottom of the new pecking order.

Emily is different from all my other chickens. She is a Gold Laced Wyandott. Not only is her size noticeably smaller, but her comb is different too. It doesn’t stand up with points like the “single comb” which all the others have. She has a “rose comb” which is shorter and plumper and reminds me very much of a French beret. It fits her calm and sophisticated demeanor.

She is also the only one with a neck covered in black and gold iridescent feathers! It fascinates me how even with such splendid feathers and patterning, she is able to blend into the background.

With these beautiful adornments, it seems odd for her to still be at the bottom of the pecking order, but chickens see things differently than people.

This means she is likely to get pecked on her head whether she deserves it or not. This also means she is often hesitant to move forward for favorite treats, and so she only occasionally knows what it’s like to have the best of anything.

These things make me sad for her, but it’s just the way chickens are. This was not an easy lesson for me to learn. Sometimes I give her special treats when no one else is looking. As I have told her so many times, she is my sweetheart and always will be.

You might think she is a social outcast, without a voice to be heard by any of the others, but it is not that way with chickens and their pecking order. It might be that way with people, but it’s just not that way with chickens and not that way with Emily.

If Emily senses or sees danger, her eyes lock on it. Her body locks on it. The only movement she makes is with her throat muscles as she makes a low, specialized sound to the others to warn them.

Everyone else freezes, looking in whatever direction they happen to be facing, searching for danger. No one else makes a sound, only Emily. Whatever it might be, Emily is in charge. All of the others listen attentively to her and watch.

Any of them can be the one who spots the danger and takes charge. It just seems to be Emily most often because she is more attuned to her surroundings than the others.

Perhaps there are special survival skills one develops by being at the bottom.

With chickens, no one is discounted or treated as worthless. The safety of the flock depends on everyone, including its weakest and least member. This is true even when they are the only one of their kind, like Emily.

With chickens, their pecking order is not about authoritarian rulership. With people, too often those in authority either refuse to hear or do all they can to silence the most defenseless voices. Don’t ever let your voice be silenced when you know things are not as they should be.

My Life With Gracie reminded me even the smallest voice matters.

I will do my best to post each Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. This week I am a little off schedule. How to draw Emily and what kind of background to use were my main challenges. It also took time to put together my thoughts for what to say to my readers who may feel like they don’t matter, are treated differently, and have no voice. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated!

Smallest Voices

My Life With Gracie…Kinds Of Beauty

Kinds Of Beauty

This illustration is based on my second “My Life With Gracie” drawing. It is still one of my favorites because it shows all six of my chickens as I think of them so often…just little chicks in awe of the world around them.

We are born with that same sense of awe as well, but at some point in life, it is often lost. Maybe a part of ourselves is lost along with it too.

What causes us to lose our sense of wonder? It may happen when we stop looking outwardly and begin to compare ourselves to others.

My neighborhood is home to so many songbirds, and they are almost always seen or at least heard in my yard. Yet my chickens never compare themselves to the songbirds. They never feel badly because they can’t sing like them, though they do have their own kind of singing. They never even try to imitate songbirds. But I do think they look, listen, and appreciate.

My house is right across the street from a vacant lot and a branch of the river. It’s marshy, and from time to time, tall graceful white egrets are wading there. My chickens watch them with interest, but they never try to walk like them or stand gracefully like them. But I do imagine they might like to go fishing or frogging with them!

My chickens don’t compare themselves to other birds. They don’t even compare themselves to each other. They are just fine being chickens, and they are just fine being who they are.

Even if a peacock came into the yard and presented a great display of feathers, their reaction would most likely be “Ho-Hum…I’ll bet all of those feathers get in the way of catching crickets.”

They don’t worry about being great singers, moving gracefully, or looking beautiful in the eyes of anyone else. Yet to me, they are all of these things and more, so much more.

Comparisons can be quite ugly when they make us doubt our own value, when they make us feel unworthy of life and unworthy of love. Comparisons can be even more ugly when we use them to try to make ourselves feel superior to someone else.

Oddly enough, the more you stand is awe and wonder of the beauty around you without any self-awareness, the more beautiful you become.

Everything and every person has their own unique kind of beauty. It’s there if you look for it. You are your own kind of beauty, and the world needs your kind of beauty.

My Life With Gracie taught me there are more kinds of beauty than we can ever count.

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

Kinds Of Beauty