Do you like food? I love love love love eating. In fact, when I eat I chirp because I’m just so excited to be eating! I also like going on walks, a warm shoulder to rest against, and most of all friends and family!
But I wasn’t always an easy going chick because I was born with a genetic disability. I’m not sure what it’s called but basically my bottom jaw is 60° off and thus my tongue dangles out of my mouth perpetually.
When I was little I was just like the other chickens. We lived in a cardboard box under a heat lamp and we spent our days eating and running in circles.
One morning while running in circles, my sister turned to me and called me crooked. I just ignored it because I couldn’t imagine it. But then another called me crooked and another and then another and I looked down and saw it true. My beak was growing out sideways. I was born broken.
The others didn’t care. They just pecked on by, sometimes at me, sometimes they ate food right out from my bottom crooked beak. I hated that. I hated them. But most of all, I hated myself.
I remember kicking at my bedding furious. Why was I made like this? Why is everyone else straight when I’m crooked?
When I heard a voice, a raspy wheezing voice. “Crooks dear,” it said. I looked up and there was my neighbor, the hamster.
“All you chickens peck at me. But not you Crooks. You don’t because with your crooked beak you can’t. That darling is a gift, the gift to love everyone.”
I was startled. So much so I almost fell over.
“Them others are plain blind. Spend their lives looking for it thinking they got to get their way up the pecking order when truth is they already got it and don’t even know it. It’s sad. Makes a hamster want to burrow deep down and never see the light again.”
I fluffed my feathers in thought and waddled away clucking. That hamster was right, I knew. And from that day forward, I vowed — whatever the cost — to dedicate myself to love.
As the days passed the hamster told me stories, stories wise and ancient as time, of his ancestors’ long journey from the Mongolian steepes, through China, over the Himalayans and into India. He’d squat by the box, put his paws together and with vivid energy talk the origins of life.
He asked the most profound questions. Like once, “What came first, the chicken or the egg?”
I was befuddled. Absolutely totally befuddled. The question was so obvious yet I was clueless.
“Can be neither,” he said. “The chicken and egg are one and inseparable like the sun and day, ying and yang. For what must, is.”
The Way of the Tao, Confucius and Buddha — He was wise in all their ways, and slowly he taught me.
“Mind cannot overcome matter, but you can choose your mind’s eye.”
The hamster demonstrated leaping from a bookshelf 50 times his height uttering not even a gasp of pain.
“You, young chicken, but a feather in the wind. Make your wind and fly like.”
And like that, it was over. I remember him leading the morning’s calisthenics. Then the heat lamp flashed, sputtered and went black. For the first time I saw darkness.
“Be still,” he whispered.
The others squawked and hollered. But true to my teacher I kept quiet and for the first time creeping in beautiful I saw morning’s light true.
“Soon they will put you outside,” he said. “Be well, young chicken.”
I didn’t know what to say. Maybe I didn’t believe it. The others were hollering and running in frightened circles, and I barely acknowledged him as he turned and climbed up to his home.
In evening they came for us. They yanked me out. I wanted to say goodbye. I looked to the hamster’s home. He was in his meditation pod, comprehending mysteries of the universe, I’m sure. I cried out but I guess he couldn’t hear me because he stayed still. It was the last time I saw him.
Outside was different. The food came less often and the water got dirty. Nights were frequently frigid. But with the cold nights, every night my sisters and I decided to cuddle. And I love love love cuddling! It reminded me of everything I’d learned. What we needed was love. So I joined Tinder.
I went on dates, and I had some moments! It was fun, because spreading love is fun.
I went to the park and made friends.
I free ranged, from Central Park to the shores of Lake Michigan.
I went hiking in Shenandoah National Park.
I took a train across the country.
I studied combat and call me chicken brains but I still can’t make sense of war’s slaughter.
I learned about freedom and government, inheritance and works concentrated.
You could say I am so so lucky.
But some folks didn’t like me. They separated me from the cats and dogs and everyone else. They said nasty things, like I’m dirty and diseased, even though every day I spend hours preening and cleaning. I wanted to say I’m trying to be pretty. I’m really trying.
Truth be told, the more I saw and learned the more I realized how little I am. I tried to remember everything the hamster had taught me. But the world is just so big and confusing and again I felt so small and alone left to kicking and screaming. Why? Why?
I learned that almost all chickens live in small cages, that when we die we’re left to rot caged in with our sisters. I learned that the loss rate for baby hens is 15%. I learned that I am half-size and will probably die young. Nearly anywhere else they would’ve killed me. I learned I shouldn’t exist.
Yet I am here. Am I an accident? A silly indulgence? I’ve thought about it a lot and I still don’t know. But I’ll tell you this and despite the (minor) exaggeration above, it’s 100% true.
In the morning I am so excited. I love a sunny day. I like bushes and trees and I dislike open fields. I’m terrified of nightfall. I love eating, especially when its fresh. I hate being alone. When I see a friend, I’ll fly to them. I love my friends. I’m still learning. I’m fighting. I’m struggling. I am alive. I am alive and every day I’m trying.