Chickens are not very sensible animals. Simple and paranoid in their natural state, the domesticated birds have been bred to be stolid and unconditionally produce a high yield of meat and/or eggs. The result is an animal whose main mode of interaction with the world is to peck everything on the off-chance that it might be food, and if it isn’t, to peck it again later on the basis that eventually, everything becomes or attracts food.
And they are undeterred by rain.
Even when it’s really cold and there’s not much to be gained by pecking things outside, that’s what chickens want to be doing. Even when they are bedraggled with mud and soaked through to the skin, they’re like “Whatever. We’re waterproof. And we have Things To Peck.” And they’re right. They are waterproof. But an important corollary to being waterproof is remembering to get warm and dry again.
We have, on more than one occasion, opened the henhouse on a drizzly morning on the supposition that the chickens would go back inside and warm up if they got too cold and wet. This is apparently a bad bet, as our biddies are so single-minded that they will continue the peck-and-peck-again-later routine while soaked, shivering, and sneezing, and then we have to bring them into the bathroom and dry them off before they retire for the evening.
It’s not that our chickens don’t get enough to eat without foraging, and it’s not that they are bored (birds don’t really get bored, it turns out). They just make bad decisions and sometimes need to be rescued because they are tunnel-vision focused on what’s in front of them.
Sounds familiar, right?
If I’m honest with myself, I feel a bit jealous of the pets and small children I know. It seems that they always have somebody watching out for them and ready with a towel or a handkerchief when the need arises. We grown-up humans seem to muddle along as best we can, helping each other when we can spare the attention and feel welcomed to, but mostly just mired in our own problems, pecking and pecking away, oblivious to the risks and recklessly optimistic about the outcome.
Where can we go for help? Who do we turn to, to nurture and care for us? If history is any indication, we can’t count on god, the government, or anything we buy. As frightening as the prospect may seem, we’re stuck with each other: partners, siblings, friends, family, strangers.
One of the skills people often fail to cultivate in our society is asking for help: we are taught that independence is a virtue, that relying on other people is a sign of weakness or an imposition on their time. So we don’t bring up the child we buried because people don’t know what to say. We don’t admit that we’re terrified of moving away from the only home we’ve ever known because everyone seems so happy for us. We don’t talk about the worries and the stresses that keep us up at night because we know they are irrational or can’t be helped.
Sometimes we have to rely on the people we know to see when we’re struggling and offer to help. Sometimes we are busily pecking away, oblivious to the rain, and need to be rescued from our bad choices. Sometimes we all need some help getting warm.
So look out for each other, people. It is cold and wet out there.