Most things that we seek deeply are found nearby. That was the case with my search to create rhythms for our family. At the tender age of three, our daughter Dane craves the feeling of predictability. Her growth is bursting at lightning speed and I can see her reaching for rituals that she can lean on. My husband and I hope to create rhythms that may become traditions – the kind that have the power to carry a family through the constant changes of life. Our inspiration came in the form of chickens; they have become rhythmic reminders that keep our values alive as we interact with them each and every day.
Our mornings begin with the melody of our rooster’s crow. He belts his song, urging us to pull away the sheets and start our day with vigor. He plays the part of nature’s very own metronome and his beat is uplifting. From the coop, we hear the rustling of the flock. Every hen is wide-eyed and ready for the adventure of today. I can sense the anticipation that overcomes them just beyond the gate. Dane enters the pasture with a bucket of seedy feed in hand and like the ring of a bell, she brings order to the chaos of breakfast time by dividing the meal amongst them. Dane knows the value in her task, as it is a rhythm that provides her with a sense of purpose and anchors her to the pulse of the beating hearts dancing at her feet. We watch them eat their breakfast and the pecking order becomes clear in an instant. Some hens own the easily reached seeds and others eat only what falls to the feet of the flock. A handful of chickens make their way out to the pasture and bypass the seed and grains for the time being. One thing is certain: chickens taste the day with every bit of energy they possess. A chicken’s rhythm is never lacking their true intentions, reminding me to keep our own intentions in the forefront of our minds, so that they may guide us through our day.
After feeding, we collect our gifts: blue, green, brown and speckled cream eggs. Dane carefully reaches for the delicate eggs and places them in the fold of her dress. They symbolize the birth of a new day – fresh and free of mistakes. She knows that I will ask her one simple question as she gently counts them; “What should we make with these eggs?” The options are wide as she contemplates the possibilities that they possess. Throughout the day, I catch a glance of the chickens from our kitchen window. They make good use of the daylight while they scratch, peck and rub their feathers into pockets of loamy sand. Others are hard at work in a nesting box, laying afternoon eggs. As long as the sun sheds its grand rays, I have yet to see an inactive chicken. Reassured by their ethics, I find that these chores are the staples of a day. We all work alongside each other as I cook and clean, cherishing the simple labors of our lives that make us who we are.
In the afternoon, the chicken yard resembles a kind of school yard. I supposed in some way, it is our school. We witness interactions amongst our chickens that mimic many playground behaviors, which allow Dane to process the world through the gentle demeanor of her feathered friends. Dane settles into a state of quiet contentment while she shares a pretend tea party with her favorite chicken, Nelly. The unique tenderness that transpires between a young girl and her favorite chicken is a thing of magic and I can’t help but acknowledge the healing powers of a play date with nature. I pick up a wayward feather from the ground and tuck it into my pocket. Inside our home, I place it in a vase as a keepsake of the day we shared together, mindfully taking in beauty of what a chicken can teach a family.
Megan Martin lives on a small farm in South Florida, where she home schools her daughter and tends to a garden and menagerie of animals.