Loss, Acceptance, and Adaptation
Recently we lost a precious hen (Reba) to a hawk attack. It was very sad but another moment in life to experience a known truth of the ongoing balance of living and passing. This applies to all creatures and sharing our farm with chickens, more than any other of our critters, provides us a day-to-day, moment-to-moment and season-to-season lens to witness a course in life up close. We humans have a tendency to need more than other creatures we share the world with. Farming teaches me to need less but experience more.
The activity or art form (as I like to think) of existing takes on a different perspective when you live on a farm and share it with other beings. I see our critters, the plants and even the soil go through dynamic changes over the course of each season. Chickens provide an opportunity to experience these changes most intimately as we get to watch an egg being incubated then hatched and grow from a little peep into a grown chicken in a short time. What's most cool about this is watching how they learn so much, in each day, and build a life with others including other chickens along with donkeys, horses, sheep, pigs, and cats and dogs. Yes cats and dogs! They all seem to mold into one grouping. As long as their basic needs are met (food, water, and shelter) and most importantly some nurturing (we humans call this love and bonding) they can do well. When peeps hatch after a 21 day incubation we quickly place them and their mother into a large dog carrier. Then we slowly, little bit by little bit, place the carrier in the feeding area of our barn. Then over time all our other critters switch, at some point and differently, to seeing the peeps as part of the farmily. Basically, a transition from food (or plaything) becomes an accepted part of the barn community. So far, it's worked each time. We keep a close eye on the peeps until they are about 12 weeks old then they are moved to a small portable pin so they can slowly experience more of the farm. Then when a calmness "time too" is in the air we let them out on their own. By this time they have become normalized. I often think of how I have tried to teach this process as a possibility in my social work courses. How nice this would be if we humans could try this out!! I would enjoy some questions or feedback on this notion!
Our hens are family, or farmily as we like to say, and not only provide fresh eggs each day but more than food they provide a lens to see how contented beings can be if their basic needs are consistently met. Reba was the most laid back of our new ones. She taught me on a here-n-now scope to embrace loss and let her loss be a teachable moment. I am listening and observing just a tiny bit more consciously in part due to her loss but more as a reminder to be present--emotionally, physically, and spirituality. Life is a balancing activity and each day we are reminded how precious life can be when we pay attention to our non-human pals.
She's gone and I've been watching the rest of the flock work out a new pecking order as they quickly bounce back and move forward--never backward. I ponder each time we lose someone on the farm how important, if not essential, it is to move forward and make the best of each situation no matter the weather, time of day, season, or circumstances. Its best to go on and adapt as best we can to all that comes our way. Reba taught me this, or more so reminded me, the importance of letting go and holding onto what's next.
Now and again and in a different more present way I am emotionally and spiritually more free having spent precious time watching her from hatching to just an hour or so before the hawk took her. She was out meandering around the farm taking in all that was available to her. I'm certain the hawk enjoyed their meal.