Chickens – A Homesteader’s Right of Passage

Monday, April 26, 2010

chickens at Buttermilk Falls Inn and Spa

Barring apartment living, dorm dwelling and the odd job change, I’ve raised chickens, off and on, for most of my life. While I liked raising them I never really became attached to them.

It wasn’t until my daughter raised her first batch of chicks that I discovered how much I truly love having chickens around, and how attached you can get to them. It’s not like I had any reservations about making friends with poultry, it’s just that I always viewed them as utilitarian animals. Unlike my dogs and sheep that had deep, individual personalities that were easier to get close to. The chickens seemed to live as just a group of feathers and eggs. The birds, like the rabbits, were always…the birds and the rabbits. That was the way it was, until Liddle Bit came along.

Liddle Bit was a feisty little bantam Mille Fleur that barely weighed two pounds. She won me over. She showed me that a chicken could not only hang with a farm girl, but also become her sidekick. Liddle Bit has probably been my favorite hen because she came to me for protection. She was the smallest bird, by far, in the coop. When we bought her as a chick, she was supposed to be a standard, but that was not to be.

As the lowest ranking bird in the coop, my presence meant safety. No one could peck on her if she was in my arms, so my arms were where she liked to be. It is a splendid thing to hold a laying chicken you raised from a hatchling, that actually liked being held. You can’t help but think, “Hey, I pretty good at this chicken thing. She trusts me.” A homesteader’s right of passage perhaps.

Her place at the bottom of the chicken social scene was proven by her back, which was nearly naked of feathers most of the time. Chickens peck at each other, and if you’re the outcast of the clan, you get picked on a lot. So maybe it was her underdog status, or maybe I was just making too much out of a pathetic little bird. But I couldn’t help it. She was such a sweetheart.

When I’d go into the coop for morning feeding or egg collecting—Liddle Bit was right there at my feet. She’d look right up at me, and walk between my legs hoping to get a lift onto my hand or on my shoulder. When I’d pet her head she’d stomp around my shoulders looking for the right place to put her little dinosaur feet. When I let the chickens out in the yard she’d follow behind me.

I’d see her standing, looking through the wire pen that separated the chickens from the outside world, hoping I’d come and let her out. When I came into the coop she’d fly right at me, literally. I such a chuckle out of her, I’d grab a handful of lay mash and feed her right from my hand. What a gal.

Liddle Bit has been gone from us for many years, but I still think of her when I walk into the coop. No other chicken we’ve owned over the years has been as friendly. So – thank you – my chicken friend.

Creative Commons License photo credit: kathrynvjones

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