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!
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.
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?