My children's book, Sprig the Rescue Pig, will be available on Amazon April 2 and is available for pre-order now. In the meantime, I am trying to capture the chicken gestalt, to do my best to understand what it is to be a chicken. Here is what I have found out: Chickens have extraordinary eyesight. They have an extra cone (hope I'm not mangling the science) and can see UV rays and humans can't. I thought about this yesterday when my daughter and I saw five rainbows. What would a chicken see?
That is why they are so good at snatching up a pill bug that is camaflauged in dirt. They can also see which of their chicks' feathers are the thickest and so healthiest, so they focus especially on the healthy, feather-y chicks since they have the best chance of survival. In Gwen The Rescue Hen, I focus on Gwen's superpowers, especially since chickens in our popular culture are so maligned. Such name calling! Bird brain. Chicken! So often we humans look at animals, and even other humans, in such a myopic way, as if intelligence is one set way. Chickens are smart at being chickens. They are smart at surviving. They don't always escape the hawk's talons or the raccoons' sharp teeth and claws, and 99% (I made that statistic up, but let's just say millions upon millions of them...most of them) can't find a way to survive humans, who have built industrial farms.
Now that I'm immersed in this, my blinders are off about what factory farm animals endure in their short life that is filled with suffering, fear, and pain. Boy, what a downer I am today! I'll return, then, to chicken smarts. No, they don't know how to read or do math, as far as I know. That they have plenty of admirable qualities and I do know from my own chickens that each comes equipped with a unique personality. Alice is confident and smart in the ways a dog is smart, following us into the house, figuring out how to score food before any of the other chickens. Fullerton is a nervous bird and freaks out at the slightest movement. Matilda is, well, pretty with feathered feet, but frankly, a little boring. James seems to not understand things so much, but is lovable
I love them, even if they don't love me. Being around my own chickens I get close to another kind of nature that isn't human, and that's not a bad thing. The more I know them, the more wonderful I think they are, and the more I am ready to go to battle to fight against chicken-isms. Let's consider the chicken and think twice before belittling these remarkable creatures. I mean, you try laying a perfect egg five days a week. That's something to crow about.