Monday, 17 October 2011


Henery Hawk: Hey, he called you a chicken.
Foghorn Leghorn: That's what I've been - I say, that's what I've been telling you, boy! I am a chicken!

When did you last spend quality time with a chicken?
I don't mean a visit to Chargrill Charcoal Chicken or a 12 pack of McNuggets or even an afternoon watching Foghorn Leghorn cartoons - I refer instead to a clucking, unplucked, head bobbing, living chook.
If you're like most urban dwellers, it's probably been a while since you ran your fingers through some feathers because it's tough work to cohabit with a chicken in a flat, let alone find room for a coop.
This is a great shame because I reckon if we all had chooks, there'd be a little less aggression in the world, a little less sadness and a greater understanding of the circle of life beyond Lion King songs.
Any kid who grows up on a farm or in the bush knows this cycle: from egg to chick to hen to the dinner table to the soup pot to the scraps bin, back to the chicken coop - and it teaches most a respect for the realities of food production and a distaste for waste: ie - you won't find any of the above children becoming vegetarians.
However, not all chickens end up in an oven; some live out their lives pecking peacefully at the dirt, pooping where they will and nattering to owners like my wonderful Mum.
My parents are a little immobile at the moment due to knee surgery and an impending hip replacement, but I know they manage to derive moments of joy from their three ISA Brown chooks regardless. Both my Mother and Father grew up in the country but have somewhat different mindsets when it comes to their chooks – Mum wants to bring them in when it’s cold and raining and Dad would never entertain such an idea so instead builds them a beautiful big coop and a backyard to boot!
Now I have come to think, after much observation of these great creatures, that these fowl are smarter than we give them credit for. Now I’m not saying that they are about to hatch a plan to escape and open an omelet cafe in Paris...geniuses they are not, however, they still have something approaching intellect.
If you drop your guard, you'll find them on the roof of your neighbours house, looking very pleased with themselves and you're the idiot, waiving a broom and yelling foulness at fowl.
There are many other great aspects to chickens including that once they get to know you they'll follow you around, children derive immeasurable pleasure from them, and it's a great thing knowing your chooks are treated well, feed well & well loved.
However, perhaps their greatest gift is how they make you appreciate the here & now.Like most domestic pets, when you watch a chicken you see a creature totally unconcerned with the past or the future, simply the worm you've unearthed for them while digging a veggie bed in the backyard. I find this simplicity calming and so refreshing.
For my money, however, chickens are one step ahead because, as well as depositing glistening poop for you to clean up, they also leave you beautiful, fresh eggs for breakfast. And they don’t chew up your favourite shoes or go ape-shit when you turn on the vacuum cleaner to clean up all the hair they’ve shed.
And lest you need more convincing, stop to think of the dozens of chicken sayings - from "counting your chickens" and “not putting all your eggs in one basket”, to the old "chicken and egg" story, to "rooster one day, feather duster the next".
Chickens have always had a profound effect on humans and have been at the epicentre of life's teachings for thousands of years, which is why I strongly recommend you spend some time with one next time you get a chance - but don't get too attached...the oven awaits!

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