Playing chicken

Will — blind, stubborn, and headlong — cooperates with appetite and passion. From this cooperation arises its evil. From this also comes its powerlessness, since all power belongs to God, good.
— Mary Baker Eddy

I’ve heard people say that chickens are stupid. That would not be one of the adjectives I would use to describe our flock.

In my experience, chickens express a good deal of intelligence. Our girls are resourceful, sassy, alert, aware of what’s going on around them, and fairly adept at manipulating a situation to their advantage.

They know when Ron comes outside in the morning, they’re going to get a free trip to a new salad bar as he moves the chicken tractor to a new spot with plenty of grass for them to munch on. They know when we’re both in the garden, they’re probably going to get treats. They know what the hoe is for (digging up grubs, obviously), and they get very excited when they see us get it out. They know if they “talk” to us and let us pet them, they’re more likely to persuade us to get out the hoe and dig up a few squirmy, ugly June bug larvae for their dining pleasure.

They also know how to handle a crisis.

Every now and then, when Ron is moving the tractor, one of the girls will dawdle around for too long, and if she happens to be standing in the way, she’ll get her leg stuck under one of the skids on the bottom.

Most animals have a tendency to panic and overreact when something like this happens. They’ll flail around wildly, trying to free themselves, and the more they fight the situation, the more dangerous it becomes. Quite often, the initial accident does them no harm, but they injure themselves with their efforts to escape.

Not so with our chickens. When one of our girls gets stuck under the edge of the tractor, with the full weight of it bearing down on her leg, she simply lies perfectly still and cries — loudly — for help. As soon as we realize she’s in distress, we lift the tractor off her leg, and she hops up, unscathed, and hurries off to sample the new grass and bugs with the other chickens. The entire incident is forgotten in a matter of seconds.

I could learn a lot from my chickens. How many times have I found myself caught in a bad situation, panicked, and caused myself an even bigger problem by trying to solve the problem through human will and limited human reasoning? But when I’ve had sense enough to hold still and pray until the weight of the situation was off of me and I could move freely, the problem has been resolved quickly, and without injury or trauma to me.

My chickens aren’t stupid at all. They’re smart enough to realize when a situation is too big for them to handle on their own, and they’re smart enough to realize that there’s somebody looking out for them who is big enough and loves them enough to help them as soon as they ask.

We could all learn a lot from the chickens.