Ladies Journal

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An old farmer once said, "you can't have a farm without chickens!" Today chickens are still found on working farms, but they are often additions to many rural backyards as well.

The chickens shown here are residents of a small village home in upstate New York. "It just needed chickens," said the owner, when asked about her one hundred and fifty year old farm house. The chickens "free range" in the warmer seasons and in return prove their usefulness by controlling backyard insect pests. They also provide rich fertilizer for lawns and can actually help "weed" in garden plots. Of course, their beautiful eggs that vary in color from pinkish to deep brown are daily gifts left in the lay box.

Often misunderstood, chickens have been thought of as animals with low intelligence and lackluster personalities. In actuality, nothing could be further from the truth. Each chicken has a strong, individual character, whether they are bold and bossy or gentle and passive. These traits can be observed most clearly as the flock continuously works to maintain the "pecking order", establishing who has first access to food and roosting space. They also evidence great stealth and ability to plan mischief, such as snitching toast and bits of sandwich from unsuspecting garden visitors.

Away from the confines and pressures of a cooped existence, chickens are free to express their true social natures. They have been known to display altruism to sick comrades, have best friends, and warn one another of danger. Any chicken enthusiast with a flock of even a few birds could share how very entertaining chickens can be to get to know.

artwork by Ann Stephenson © 1998

text by Kit Kephart

Tags: birds,