This I Believe

Maddie - Salt Lake City, Utah
Entered on January 7, 2008
Age Group: Under 18

I believe in chickens.

A hen’s life is simple; a chicken’s day consists of pecking for food, laying eggs, and sleeping. However to me, my four pet chickens are an example of how to live my life. I have never met four creatures who live more for each day than them.

The first three chickens we brought home were welcomed by the neighborhood cats, who diligently stalked them for several weeks. I worried about them for a while before realizing that my chickens clearly were not troubled. They went about their usual business, ignoring the wide-eyed cat staring at them through the holes in the fence. It occurred to me that my chickens might happier than the curious cats. The cats couldn’t sleep soundly with these strange creatures so close by, but my chickens could hardly be bothered by anything. So I learned that worrying won’t make me a happier person.

My chickens also taught me about death. When a leash-less dog got into our yard and attacked them, I watched helplessly as one of my birds writhed silently on the ground with a broken neck and blood covered feathers. Where a moment before there had been a healthy young hen, happily grazing in the grass, there was now a lifeless form lying in a heap on the ground. I had never before realized that life could be taken away so quickly, and silently. I discovered that day the delicateness of life.

Afterwards, I watched Janis, the only survivor of the dog attack, wander slowly around the yard peeping loudly, almost as though she was looking for her lost sisters. I had never seen her behave this way before and it was clear to me that she was feeling sorrow and confusion, just as any human being would. It proved to me the truth in what Buddha taught: that all life contains suffering.

Above all, chickens are a symbol to me of the most loyal companionship. When I let them out in the afternoon to wander around the yard, they are never more than a few feet from each other. If one somehow manages to squeeze through the gaps in the fence and cannot squeeze back, her sisters are huddled against the other side, clucking their support and concern. If one finds a grasshopper in the garden, she will happily share it with her sisters. If one works up the courage to explore a new part of the yard, the rest will shortly follow.

However, even if they stray together through the grapevine and into the neighbors yard, they will always return to their coop before dusk, because chickens are afraid of the dark.