A hen profile in black and white

Black and white hen

Isn't she beautiful with her feathered toes, her pea comb*, and full plumage. I cannot say I know her name, but I recognize her uniqueness, her individuality and her intrinsic specialness. She poses for this shot, peering up at me with a curious gaze, wondering what this shiny black object might be to her. Peck, it does not taste edible. Scratch, it cannot be perched upon. So she stares gloomily ahead, concerned by the lack of engagement the whirring camera provides. Seconds later, she is gone, off in the thick, dead grass where her friends cavort. She talks, clucking and chirping, yelling indignantly when someone tries to take her spot. I watch, mesmerized. She is all motion, flapping wings, darting legs, yet all I can capture is stillness, pressing  the pause button in her moving life.

And then there is Tulip, a name I cannot forget. My sweet, glaring, seemingly stressed out friend. She does not do black and white, because she does not do refined poses or elegant stances. She is in your face, a little perturbed with the world, always squawking indignantly. Newman, the rooster, follows at a safe distance, never sure when Tulip's ornery glare will focus on him. He is wise not to boss Tulip around, she is dazzling color, confidence blooming from deep within her chicken soul. She let me get this shot, but she is already moving off frame, after more important pursuits. Newman follows her too, hoping against all hopes, she might change her mind and perhaps become more than friends, more than mere acquaintances in Tulip's mind.

Tulip hen looking at grass

I love these moments captured with the chickens and turkeys. They have conversations and friendships, fights and arguments, theirs is a world I pretend to understand...but really I remain woefully ignorant. There are nuances I cannot begin to understand, different gestures and words that convey something. It is all sound and motion, some touch but mainly sound, a truly cacophonous affair.

If you ever get a chance to visit Animal Place, do so. Or a sanctuary near you or maybe a friend who has companion chickens (adopted from a shelter, of course). Just sit and be with these animals, these small beings who sometimes let us into their orbits. It will bring you great joy, trust me. And if you bring grapes and a kind word, the chickens will reciprocate (with kind words, they will eat the grapes). That is how it should be.

*The fleshy proteruberance on a chicken's head.