Once upon a time every chicken we have scratching around in our garden was inside an egg, inside their mother. Their world exploded into being when their egg hatched, it grew huge, 20 or 30 times bigger inside the incubator or tucked under their mother hen inside the chicken shed. Then they discovered the outside, the penned off area they live within in our garden. For most of our chickens this is plenty enough. They scratch around in the dirt each day, waiting for us to come and feed them, let them out each morning and put them away each night. They are kept safe, fed and have no greater issues than the pecking order within their little community. They mate, lay eggs, raise chicks, sometimes dig up the odd juicy worm and are more than content clucking about. Every so often we get an Adventurous Hen. They realise if they flap their wings a bit harder and get a run up they can scale that fence. Most of them look at the world beyond the fence and hop back down again. There are foxes, other birds who might not hurt them but are different to them – eat different things, live in different ways, make different noises. There is no safe shed to be put away in at night, no certain grain being tossed to them each morning. Okay so the other chickens might piss them off sometimes, they might yearn for a higher place in the pecking order but it’s what they know, where they aer safe. The odd chicken doesn’t come back. The lure of the wider world has called them away. I don’t know what becomes of them. We don’t find feathers to show evidence of foxes making off with them, they don’t send postcards or keep a blog.
At the moment we’re in that holding bay on the top of the fence. We don’t have much room for stuff, we can’t take the shed and the supply of grain and all the other chickens with us. We don’t really know what is on the other side, whether our wings will carry us all the way we want to go, whether we’ll find juicy worms to keep us going, whether the language and ideas and lifetsyle of all the other birds will suit us.But in the immortal words of those chickens who have gone before us ‘ what the cluck, let’s go and find out for ourselves…’