Most people know I live on a farm with horses, one pot-bellied pig, cats, and three dachshunds. I have recently added two peacocks, Fred and Ethel, along with five chickens: Nutty, Ma, Ruby, Barrie, and Blackie. Blackie thinks she's a peacock because she hangs with the pea fowl, but she does do her chicken thing by laying eggs daily. So, if she wants to chill with the peacocks in her spare time, that's her business. Who am I to tell her she's a chicken?
Up until two days ago I thought the chickens were pretty neat and certainly advantageous because they gift me with eggs daily. Every time I go to their pasture to visit and check their food and water and throw them "scratch," they chuckle at me and run in front and behind, eagerly anticipating their corn treat. They are comical: running, not like an animal that has four legs, but one that has two legs. They run as a human does, their heads bobbing from side to side while they yell and cackle: the most exciting time of the day for them--getting their scratch from their humans.
But two days ago when I let them out of the chicken pen to graze, Nutty did something remarkable, and her gesture made my week. When she came out of her pen, I tried to pet her as I always do. Heretofore, she skittered from underneath my touch: I was a pox. This time when I proffered my hand, she hunkered in the grass and allowed me to pet her back. And she seemed to enjoy the experience much as my dogs do. So, not satisfied enough that she was allowing me to pet her back, I decided to pick her up and hold her against me. I was surprised that she didn't struggle to get away.
She let me hold her!
I can hardly describe the excitement, the flattery I felt from this chicken allowing me to cuddle her. After all, she's only a chicken! Most of us consider them brainless wonders. Certainly they lack the capacity for affection. How many animals do we all take for granted as I did her--not affording her personality or the ability to feel affection? But she certainly does have the capacity for loving and being loved. How cool--a chicken expressing love!
So, that leads me to wonder about other animals, wild and domestic, and their ability to love a human or, at least, enjoying the simple touch of a human. I wonder about an armadillo and a turtle. Could they feel my loving touch through their hard shells ? Would they respond to me with their own kind of love expression? I know my pigs expressed love by sidling against me, nudging me with their snouts, and lying down next to me on the floor. But, because of a pig's shape and physical incapacity, he or she could not wrap her legs around my neck and plant a big hug on me.
Animals must express their love in their own ways--according to their physical capabilities and according to how they express affection or companionship to others of their species. Perhaps, if I were a dolphin, another dolphin would swim next to me and nudge me with its nose or flap its tail along my side. And I would respond likewise. And a horse is surely incapable of hugging me--I'd be afraid of being crushed to death in his love-grip. But I do get nuzzles from my horses.
I have learned that affection is relative to the species meting it out. And I am perfectly fine with that. My chickens are teaching me new life lessons every day.
The world never ceases to amaze.