There is something fulfilling about watching chickens prancing about
a barnyard. The rooster, in his proud plumage, struts about his
kingdom and looking for the highest spot to perch, be it fence post
or wagon. He’ll then call out at the top of his voice “Cuck-a-do-a-
doo” for all to hear. The hens, typically scattered about scratching
the ground surrounded by their fluffy offspring, were the required
scenery for any wholesome farm.
This vision is still common to all of us, even if you have never
stepped foot in the country. It has been the subject of paintings for
hundreds of years and the backdrop for most every movie made that
deals with rural life. But, before a rooster can crow from the fence
post, he and every other chicken starts off as a little fluffy ball.
To be sure, there is little in this world more adorable than day-old
chicks. Soft and fuzzy like a new blanket, they cuddle with one
another for warmth. Throwing in their high pitched cheeps, they
are the picture of innocence, snuggling together, holding each other
up in a communal nap.
Chicks are so loved that they share top billing with the Easter bunny
as spokesmen for spring. They even have their own candy; Peeps
are a foamy marshmallow confection, soft and tender, that cling
together in gooey sweetness.
But this popular portrayal of innocence leaves out an important
detail. That there is a dark side of baby chicks- they are like us,
The fluffy costume that we so admire will only last a couple of days
before feathers start to appear at the tips of the wings. The naive
dark eyes that perfect the image soon develop a menacing outer
yellow iris. The pupils narrow and the look of innocence is
transformed into its true being- the cold calculating creature.
Of course just like with us it doesn’t happen overnight. They first
go through the ugly teenage weeks as feathers pop out, pointing in
every direction. During this time they grow so fast that the old fluff
is nothing more than fuzz stretched across their bare skin waiting
for their plumage to fill in. A bare neck with head full of wild
feathers wouldn’t win any beauty pageants, but in another week this
too is covered, and they soon become the elegant fowl of the
Although Norman Rockwell never showed it, the life of the chicken
is not as idyllic as it appears on the canvas. They are far more like
us than most of us would give them credit for.
Perhaps you have to be a farmer to see it; perhaps you need to
work with them every day, for in spite of their beauty and their
location on our food chain, their inner-creature is wild and cruel.
It starts day one- for when the fluff balls look to be cuddling, they
are there for one purpose: preservation of themselves. They will
quickly smother their neighbor and trample them under foot if they
are lacking the heat they crave. It is not uncommon on unusually
cold nights or if the brooder lamp fails to find a pile of dead chicks
under the live ones still massed as one.
This selfishness extends to their diet as well. We will often pick
potato beetles off the plants in the garden, gathering the pests in a
jar for a trip to the chicken run. As the contents pour out, the
chickens will sprint over to feast. The first ones there will look like
a teenage boy, eating them as fast as he can before the others can
For the larger insects like grass hoppers, they will grab hold of the
bug and dash off like a bandit with their booty in their beaks,
several others join in pursuit as if they were the keystone cops.
There are few more humorous sights then watching chickens,
especially broilers with their big bodies and flailing stick legs,
chasing each other over a grasshopper, often leaving other offerings
untouched just to keep the other from getting away with an
Not all their activities are humorous though; if one develops a sore
or a cut the others are sure to notice and take advantage. Within
hours the wound will be attacked and the flock will kill the bird,
ripping its flesh as they peck the creature to death.
It is so senseless. If we catch it in time, we rescue the bird, placing
it in quarantine for a few days until it heals. But it makes me
wonder if maybe there is little difference between our species in
We hold up our offspring as perfect the day they are born, unable or
unwilling to admit that they are as selfish as the parents that bore
them. We see them as helpless innocent bundles of joy. And though
we are quick to spot the mother’s blue eyes or the father’s dark
hair somehow we are blind to the sinful nature that we all inherit.
Don’t we too race to keep others from obtaining a prize that we
covet whether it is a spot on the basketball team or the corner
office? But it is with our wounded friends that we most resemble
these feathered fiends.
While most of us have not physically assaulted anyone, can we say
that we are as innocent of the vicious cut-down, catty back-stab or
the constant pecking at someone’s emotional or spiritual wellbeing?
Science has recently suggested that birds are the descendants of
dinosaurs. On the surface this sounds absurd, after all, it’s a chicken.
But if you watch them long enough you can see it, it in the eyes,
and if I let my mind wander…
God was walking one afternoon on the face of the prehistoric
earth, “T, we have to talk…”
“Oh… what do you want God, I’m busy.”
"That’s what we need to talk about. See, I want you to leave
those little two legged mammals alone.”
“Why? I mean, look at them, they don’t have a lot a meat on
them but they have no claws, tiny teeth and they taste like
“That might be so, but I have plans for them, so…”
“No offence God, but I’m T-Rex. I’m the greatest of the
dinosaurs, and I’ll eat whatever I feel like eating.”
God looked at the Dinosaur for a moment, “You know T, I made
“Yeah, sure you did. Look, God, that might work on
plateosaurus or stegosaurus but come on, look who you are talking to
here! A body like this” he said, flexing, “this took years of
evolution to develop. So go find someone else to sell your hocus-
pocus to, ‘cause I’m not buying.”
“Alright, T-Rex; I gave you a chance, but because you are such
an arrogant creature I curse you- from now on that little mammal we
talked about -the one on two legs- he’s going to eat you all the
time- you will be a staple on his diet, he’ll make nuggets out of you
and you’ll be the basis of his joke about crossing a road. I will even
give him your position as the greatest creature in my creation.
What do you think of that? …Maybe he’ll even learn from your
experience on how not to act.”
“Yeah, sure God… like that could ever happen,” T-Rex scoffed.