We stuffed them into boxes marked “Smirnoff Ice” and “Captain Morgan’s,” small boxes, free from the local liquor store. John cut air holes on the ride across town, slicing with his utility knife in the passenger seat while I drove.
When we arrived at the farm, the chickens, still cooped from the night before and anxious to range, were furious at being boxed one-by-one. Four of us worked together - grab a chicken, tuck it in a box. Press down and close the lid, folding the flaps one under the other. Repeat.
We emailed over a dozen times with the owner who was selling a flock of sixteen at the beginning of the week. She asked for pictures of our yard, our coop, she delayed making a decision. Frustrated, we joked she was going to ask for tax returns and references next. “They’re pets,” she said in the craigslist ad and on email, “These girls are loved.” One by one, though, her free-range flock was being eaten by predators. It dwindled to twelve by the time we got there. One night they watched a fox take one out in the field and her son, twelve, ran to get his pellet gun, but it was too late.
The birds thrashed and squawked and the boxes, weakened by the overly large air holes, gave under the pressure. One then another bird toppled their way to escape, so we cornered and dove and the birds’ owner grabbed two by the tail feathers and we figured maybe we didn’t need to be quite as gentle as we’d thought. Finally we had five birds in boxes and five in a borrowed dog pen. Two baby polish hens traveled in their own cage. The adult birds settled as soon as we started driving, but the babies cried a steady stream of peeps.
With the back seats out, we had a van packed to the gills with chickens and it smelled like it too. Back home, we stuffed a quick lunch in our faces and went to ready the coop. Coco sniffed wildly and whined at the van, her tail wagging, eyes pleading. Then we unpacked the girls, unloading all of the boxes and crates into the coop, and opening them one by one. They settled in quickly, happy to find their old nesting boxes and piled in two and three at a time to lay eggs for the day. Because the new coop is big enough to stand in I heard, for the first time, the low purring noise, almost like a growl, they make just before laying an egg.
The Polish Girls, still in their cage, we tucked into our old chicken coop so they could explore the place. They’re gray and black speckled with an outlandish white bouffant of feathers on their head. Later, three of our kids came home and met their newest pets. That night when Solomon returned from a playdate, he squatted in the dark and rain to look at the Polish hens. “That one’s mine,” he exclaimed, “I love it with all my heart!”
Today I’ve had second thoughts and I’m not sure how long this egg production business will last. There’s a lot of poop involved – that’s the main thing. But John and I talked about our pets on the way home yesterday, the cats and dog and hens.
“I really enjoy animals,” I said.
“Yeah,” he said, “I noticed.”
I told him about watching our tomcat Blackie and the dog, Coco, this spring. When the weather turned warm for a few unexpected days in March, I felt a sudden pressure to be Out and Active. But I didn’t know how to be in the yard, what to do, and the twins too seemed at a loss. Perplexed and discomforted, I watched the cat, though, and the dog, how they sauntered out sniffing the air and pausing every couple of steps. They laid in the sun, rolled in the grass. They stretched their way slowly into spring, leisurely shedding winter and opening, as the whole world does in spring, toward a new season. Watching them, I found freedom to do the same.
This morning I got to church just in time to hear the tail end of the sermon. I can’t vouch for the rest of it, but the final slide, the one I saw, was about birds and joy and the songs they sing, the songs we sing. Chickens don’t sing, per say, but I now know they growl and purr over their nests. That’s what I thought about when we sang Joy to the World for our closing song, when we repeated the line about “wonders of his love” over and over again in the fourth and final verse.
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I'm super excited to be joining with Andi Cumbo-Floyd and Shawn Smucker to organize a weekend writer's retreat this summer at God's Whisper Farm in the beautiful mountains of Virginia. Visit Andi's website for more info!
Welcome to the #SmallWonder link-up.
What if we chose to deliberately look for small moments of wonder, the small sparks of presence, of delight or sorrow, of true humanity in which we meet God?
That's my proposal - that we gather here each week to share one moment of Wonder from each of our days. You're invited to link-up a brief post about a small moment of wonder. Don't worry if your post is too long, too short, or not just right - you're welcome to come as you are.