I’m the type of person who likes lists. I prefer immediate action over anything delayed. My partner, Rob, thinks I tend to rush projects, but I simply want to see a job completed, something accomplished.
This last March a Buff Orpington hen reminded me that patience is golden.
For three days, the hen commandeered one of the four nest boxes. While the Barred Rocks, Rhode Island Reds, and White Rocks maintained healthy distance between them and me, the Buff stayed rooted to her post.
The weekend came with a private brooding chamber for her on my porch: water, feed, wood shavings, and quiet. Moving her at night and slipping six eggs under her, I left her to contemplate her chicken existence.
The Buff’s agitation with me increased as the days turned to weeks. At first, she would stare silently when I appeared unbidden on the porch, cocking her head to the side to look with one red eye. She clucked whenever I borrowed the eggs for candling. For those with experience with chickens (or animals of any kind), a hen makes a variety of different sounds: to indicate food, suggest comfort, provide warning. This sound now was, if translated directly into English, a long line of swear words.
At this point, if she heard me open the porch door, the verbal abuse would start.
I would often wonder what thoughts passed through the hen’s mind. True, I’m anthropomorphizing this animal, but with so much time isolated, quiet, and firmly covering her eggs I had to wonder at her patience and thoughts. 21 days seems a terribly long time to go without fellowship, exercise, or interaction.
Then, early on a Saturday, I heard the telltale chirping. Her eldest, (Leroy or Leta- time will tell) hatched and dry, already crept in and out of its mother’s feathers and soon taught the coming siblings the tricks to their ‘heated and portable’ fort.
Brooding and hatching guides say 21 days is the magic number for chick incubation, but the eldest chick arrived on day 19, the middle chicks hatched on day 20, and the slow poke of the group showed up on day 21. The chicks obviously hadn’t read a manual.
Our lives are so often intertwined with quick decisions and actions, side effects of the fast paced world we all inhabit. In this world, we must remind ourselves there is a time for all things. The struggle is always to understand the when. But I believe wisdom can be learned from patience, and how lucky are we to have chickens as teachers?