Summer breaks always invite for reflection. Often people take summer courses to gain some new insights in a relevant field of expertise linked to their personal or professional life. While there were a few good summer courses around this summer, I abstained and instead share with you what my chicken taught me over the summer break.
First of all, I have to admit, I have a little bit of a personal attachment to our chicken. Not that they are particularly beautiful or treat me friendly (they make a lot of noise in the morning). It is just that I got used to having to clean their mess every other week. Actually, I should do this more often, as I learned that chicken thrive in a clean environment (as most people do). That raises the question why they are themselves creating such a mess out of their water and food rations. The water tower next to the food tower provide enough and the chicken have really no other business but to bend their necks and pick from both the grain and drink from the water. Still apparently they like to trample the edge of the tower, as an inbuilt mechanism to get the worms out of the soil, messing around with the food, and making the water dirty.
I bought these white leghorns a couple of years ago after constructing a chicken run from the remains of a shed. They turn out to be very productive chicken supplying us their 3 eggs almost every day over the last two years. However, despite this welcome addition to our daily diet, I wondered how I could reduce the food and water spills and make the chicken more effective. What did I do wrong? I tried to hang the towers a couple of inches above the soil, so that they could not easily trample the food, to no avail. Not only did their behavior result in food and water losses, but also it causes the soil of the chicken run to be covered with grain, giving me hard time when cleaning up the place.
Nowadays there is internet pages full of forums with people sharing their passions on anything. Hence I also found some 'friends' and consulted them on what to do. It quickly appeared that I am not the only one trying to make their chicken behave. Failing to take proper care of a couple chicken makes me humbled in judging the commercial farming practice, that is critiqued by many of my fellow citizens today.
Still there is something weird in trying to make chicken behave. Even the so called pecking order disturbed me to some extend, resulting in the early demise of one of them. Today I was so fed up that I took the dominant one apart, allowing the weaker one to eat first. How come I am trying to challenge the laws of nature? Do we not do the same as people? Why did I make these chicken dependent on my supply of food to a nicely contained chicken run while I could have opted to have them roam around in our garden (having them ruining it and having to fetch them from the neighbors or the street every now and then). It appears we want to model the world to our own liking. Serving us with a steady supply of food while minimizing disturbances to our direct surrounding.
As I tried to teach my chicken other behavior I realized they may have given me the best summer course I could have wished for. Allow nature to take its course, facilitate people to make their own decisions, and allow maximum space for animals with whom we try to live in symbiosis, and deal with the disturbances this provides to our direct vicinity or turn it into a peaceful co-existence as I learned from the highland communities in Ethiopia. There is no escape from the laws of nature. We better comply.
My name is Reinier van Hoffen.
Click here for a summary.
Also find the text of a lecture Dr. Achterhuis held at the 2012 Bilderberg conference.