Sitting on the Doorsill

A month ago we picked up thirty baby chicks (sex yet unknown): 10 meat birds (pale yellow) and 10 each of two types of layers (one black & white, one gold & brown). The pale yellow meat birds are off in their own pen now. I must remove their food periodically or they’ll just eat themselves to an early death. Gluttons!

Thirty miniature dinosaurs making themselves at home.
Thirty miniature dinosaurs making themselves at home.

The remaining 20 birds will take another four months to mature. Then we’ll sell them as ready to lay chickens. (Sans any roosters that appear in the meantime).

Each morning I go down to the barn, open the doors to let in some fresh air and sunlight, and then open the pen door so the layers can get outside and start ridding my property of insects.

Chickens are very good at eating bugs, and it is, in fact, a major reason I bought them. With my ducks now gone, the insects were starting to take over again. Chickens to the rescue.

But my chickens don’t understand the deal.

Day after day, there they sit. On the doorsill. Not venturing forth. Not even thinking about it.

They just don’t want to go outside.

They want the familiar.

What to do? I tried shooing them outside. Have you ever tried to herd chickens?

I carried two outside. They began to peck a bit at the grass. One even caught a moth. Hallelujah! Then I brought them back to their pen, expecting them to tell the others about the amazing world just outside those big barn doors, aka the freed prisoner in Plato’s Allegory of The Cave.

As with the inhabitants of Plato’s cave, none of the chickens expressed any interest at all.

Chickens on Doorsill
Chickens on Doorsill

So, as I sat in the barn recently, taking pictures of them lined up on the doorsill, I thought about people who sit on their own metaphorical doorsills, content.

Really, who doesn’t prefer the familiar?

From Day 2 of their lives, my chickens have lived inside this 10′ x 6′, wire meshed pen. Wood shavings beneath them. Fresh water each day. Lots of 21% (organic) mash to nibble on.
In chicken-mind, they were living the good life!

We all like “the good life.”  The comfortable. The secure.

Can I expect any more from chickens?
But, unlike chickens, we know that it’s those moments when we push ourselves outside our “comfort zone,” when we try on a new way of being, when we expand our horizons to include that “great unknown” — these are the moments that ultimately define our lives.  These moments are what memories are made of.

The pull of that “great unknown” just beyond the barn doors calls in different ways to different people.

For some, space exploration beckons. Others want to jump out of airplanes, drive race cars, climb mountains, or dive into the depths of the ocean. Not me. In those situations, I’ll cling to my doorsill, thank you.

But give me a foreign culture to explore, a new group of people to meet and connect with, an adventure with my feet solidly on the ground beneath me, and I’m off that doorsill in a heartbeat.

Right now, I’m sitting on a doorsill on a different sort.  My publisher is waiting for  my go-ahead, my “sign off,” and my book will end its long gestation and begin that irreversible birth into the real world.  And that means my days of edits and rewrites, those “let’s just say this a little differently” moments, in other words, my days of tweaking — of being in control of the finished product — are over.

And that’s scary.  So, I can empathize with these chickens.

How about you? What’s your threshold for adventure? What doorsills do you cling to? What new adventures still await?

10 Responses

  1. Ian Mathie
    | Reply

    Have you considered removing the feed and water troughs from the barn and placing them outside? When the chooks get thirsty, they’ll go out to drink. They may be bird brained, but they’re survivors!

    Displacing the comfort zone is the best way of getting anyone or anything accustomed to new encounters. It;s the same with us humans, we just need that compulsive motive to take the first step and to reinforce that with the second. You must surely have found that when you made your decision to go to Kazakhstan? Just like you’re now gearing up to release your book.

    Remember the most important lesson any of us learn in life: Every bird must fly on its own wings.

    So go and fly.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      HI Ian. Yes indeed. Leaving one’s comfort zone seems key to so much. And I love how you bring in your key quote from last week: every bird must fly on his own. Literally, this week.

  2. Yvonne Hertzberger
    | Reply

    Now that is very strange. I might have attributed the unwillingness to venture out to breed but you have three different kinds there. I grew up on poultry farms so am familiar with chickens. Since it worked to rake those few out, and since it’s summer, you may have to force the issue. After all, you want range eggs. What if you took their food out into the yard and spread it around and didn’t leave it in the pen. They should be hungry enough to go after it. Unless, like turkeys, they have had all their intelligence bred out of them.

    Hah, I just read Ian’s comment. Seems we’re of the same mind.

    • janet Givens
      | Reply

      HI Yvonne, I was hoping I’d get a chicken farmer or two to weigh in here. So, special welcome.
      I’m beginning to think chickens are even dumber than ducks, and I’d not thought ANYTHING could be that dumb. Fortunately, they haven’t lost their instinct for survival. I’m happy to report that the chickens are starting to move on out into the “broader world,” in this case an enclosed paddock with a nice umbrella to protect them against the sun (and visiting hawks). I think when I’m not there, they go outside, for when I come down the stairs into their area, I see them all scurrying back toward their pen. It’s like they need their fix of familiar. They are fascinating to watch.

    • Ian Mathie
      | Reply

      Yvonne – I hope it’s because ‘great minds think alike’ and not a case of ‘fools seldom differ’!

  3. Ian Mathie
    | Reply

    Janet – have you thought of putting a drop door on the chook house, so that as soon as the last one leaves, you can pull a remote switch and shut them out in the pen? They’ll soon learn that daylight hours are to be spent outdoors and they can come in at night to roost.

  4. Janet Givens
    | Reply

    Ian, what’s a chook house? Afraid you’ve got here a case of city girl (and guy) moved to country, and explores a new way of being in the world. The house came with a barn. We just added some hardware cloth and made a pen. Nothing fancy. It’s an old horse barn. Great big doors to the outside. The pen is about 30 feet from the doorway. Otherwise, a great idea. :).

  5. ian
    | Reply

    A chook house is where you keep your chookies, of course! You might also call it a hen pen, a rooster roof or a poultry palace.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      My “chookies” are actually out and about in the paddock today. In a few days I’ll open the gate and let them go out into the real world. A handfull of mash thrown out on the grass works wonders. That’s called bribery in some parts, heh? I am expanding their comfort zone; food works well. Just sent your Chinese Take Out novella to my hubs as a gift. I’ll read it over his shoulder, once I finish your five memoirs.

  6. […] The meat birds got their own inside pen, so I can control their feed. The layers, eventually, finally got used to going outside, and earning their keep (eating bugs), as I wrote about in an earlier post, Sitting on the Doorsill. […]

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