by Jill Clingan
photos by Amélie Clingan
Yesterday afternoon our neighbor came over to nudge one of his calves from our yard back into his pasture. As he walked into our yard, he was greeted by our brood of twenty-five hens, one rooster, two drakes, and two ducks. Our little poultry flock is about as domesticated as a flock of poultry can be without taking over our home (and trust me—they try—whenever our door is open they love sneaking into the kitchen and snatching crumbs up off the floor). This guy, our neighbor, deals with his big horses and cows every day, but he seemed a tiny bit overwhelmed as he was surrounded by our birds—two of whom, the ducks, were loudly scolding him for arriving in our backyard without food. I peeked out my back door and couldn’t help but smile. There was something undeniably amusing about watching a guy in cowboy boots gingerly maneuvering his way around my curious chickens and ducks.
The word that popped into my head was delight.
You may very well think I am a little on the crazy side, but I take great delight in my chickens and ducks. A year ago, I had no earthly idea that chickens and ducks were delightful creatures. A year ago we were perusing chicken catalogs and researching different breeds, trying to find birds that were sweet, not too broody, cold-weather hardy, laid the right color of eggs, and were, of course, pretty.
Several weeks after placing our order, seventeen chicks and three ducks arrived in a peeping box at our Post Office. We had no idea what we were doing. We stuck them in our living room in a big plastic tub with a heating lamp, some bedding, chick food, and water. We eyed them anxiously. We buried a few. After several weeks they graduated to a pen (and the rafters, once they figured out how to roost) in our garage. We finally (nervously, gingerly) left them on their own at night in the chicken coop that my husband built, and then we let them out during the day to peck out bugs and nibble on blades of grass. We lost one to a bobcat, two more to our dogs (including the Great Pyranees/Anatolian Shepherd puppy we had procured for the purpose of protecting our chickens and ducks). One more got stuck and died in the aviary netting we had put up in the run to protect them from hawks. My heart breaks—I mean breaks—each time one dies. I had no idea I could love chickens so big.
Now, we are the Pied Piper of chickens. They follow us around the yard. We constantly have to brush them off of the table on our porch when we eat outside. They stand at the back door and peek in. They noisily swarm around the porch when they think it’s time for dinner. They cluck proudly when they lay eggs. They squawk with great indignation when they are chased around the yard by our adolescent rooster, who just last week both learned how to crow and how to embrace his role as progenitor of the chicken species.
Chickens are fun. They are funny. They are delightful. I can’t help but smile even as I sit here and type.
The truth, though, is that I have a hard time with delight. My personality is much more prone to trudge through another “d” word—duty—than it is prone to skip carefreely through delight.
When I delight in something, I revel in the pleasure of it. I am captivated, enchanted.
But more often, I focus on duty. There are dishes to wash, a mountain of laundry to conquer, homework to finish, dust to sweep. So much to do. So, so very much to do. And instead of delighting in my tasks, I furrow my brow and grit my teeth and plow through them. I wallow in discontentment, disappointment, and melancholy. I tell my kids, “Later,” when they ask me to play a game with them. I tell my husband, “Not now,” when he invites me out on a walk. I impatiently maneuver around my chickens or ducks or dogs instead of just stopping in the midst of their chaos to laugh at their silly, earnest antics.
I promise myself that life is just crazy right now. It’s going to get easier and better, soon, and then—and then—I will have time for delight.
But not now. Have you seen my list? Just let me check off a few more things, and then I will have time for delight.
Except—you know where this is going, don’t you? Except there is never enough time for delight. Never. There is always something more to do. Always some duty that seems so urgent, always some task that seems so important.
Until that moment when I stop at my back door, peek out, and smile at a tough guy surrounded by a brood of enthusiastic poultry.
Until that moment when I stop and soak up delight.
Today I want to challenge you to find your chicken. No, you don’t have to sort through a chicken catalog and choose a few to go pick up at your local Post Office (although, I have to say, I don’t think you would regret it). But I hope that you will find your chicken—find something that brings you unabashed, soul-saturating delight.
Maybe you should draw yourself a hot bath, pour a cup of hot tea, and submerse yourself in a delightful book.
Maybe you should make a weekly date with yourself to wander around a used bookstore.
Maybe you should meander slowly through an art gallery.
Maybe you should play games with your kiddos on Friday nights.
Maybe you should hold your husband’s hand and go on a walk.
Maybe you should seek out delight in the clink of dishes in the sudsy water, the swish of your broom across your kitchen floor, the soft scent of clean laundry as you fold.
Maybe you should buy a chicken.
Whatever it is—whatever you do—lose yourself in pleasure, in enchantment, in delight.
(Here is a video of Hoppy, our favorite chicken, enjoying the leftovers from Amélie’s lunch yesterday. She is our favorite chicken because she is both super sweet and she has a twisted foot…hence the name, Hoppy. She gets a lot of extra special love. 😉 )