JAN 31, 2018 Devotional: “Do Chickens Grieve?”

My life is an open book.  Many times, these weekly devotionals are a dialog of what’s happened to me that week or, maybe, that year….or even years ago, in some cases.  The good news is that I recognize God’s efforts in my life all around me….whether good things are happening or the not-so-good times.  I’m convinced that God has a master plan.  You’ve certainly heard me say that time and time again.

But, still, there are things that happen to me….and happen to you….that don’t make us smile.  Don’t warm our hearts.  And feel as far from “God-like” as the farthest constellations in the sky.  When bad things happen out of the blue, we’re left grief-stricken, puzzled, and many times, heart-broken.

Such was my Saturday, last weekend.

We had a typical, yet crazy weekend at home.  The boys were going to be on a ski trip from Friday to Saturday with the Boy Scouts.  And my daughter, Lauren, was going to spend Friday and Saturday night with us while she still is in recovery from her recent automobile crash injuries.  I had an planning conference at our church on Saturday until early afternoon, and then I planned to play 9 holes of golf with a few buddies.  Janelle, my wife, has been knee-deep with a couple residential real estate clients, and she was going to be busy part of Saturday as well.  And Lauren, while confined to a wheelchair, had a couple friends and her boyfriend due into Charlotte to visit with her over the weekend too!

So…suffice to say, there were plenty of opportunities for lots of moving pieces!

Let me quickly say that what happened late on Saturday was of no one’s fault in particular.  With all the comings and goings, the perfect storm of something happening bad was surely present.

Late on Saturday afternoon, the boys returned from skiing and at the same time, Lauren’s friends stopped by to visit.  And they had her beloved dog, Polly with her.

Our hens were in the backyard as they normally are on most days.  Someone accidentally left the back door open….and Polly ran out towards the backyard flock.  One of the hens, Harriett, got cornered by Polly beneath my in-laws’ deck.  And Polly did what dogs instinctively do.  She lunged at Harriett, grabbed her by the neck and the fragileness of the chicken’s bones were no match for the dog’s jaws.

And all that happened within seconds.

Chaos ensued.  And thankfully someone chased Polly back into the house with the rest of the flock scattered for protection.  “Things could have been a lot worse”, I reminded myself again and again.

I had just finished playing golf when the text message came in from Janelle, relaying the awful news.

And to think this had already been a taxing few weeks on my family.  As I gripped the steering wheel, I found myself looking to the heavens saying, “Really God….really??”.

Most backyard chicken owners will tell you that they brace themselves for inevitable events like what my family went through this weekend to occur.  I mean, there are SO many things that could cause harm to the hens in the backyard.  Lisa Steele, renowned chicken farmer and author of the book, “Fresh Eggs Daily”, writes on her blog:

“If you raise chickens long enough, you will end up losing one – and eventually all – to old age, if nothing else. But realistically, old age won’t be the cause of their demise. Shockingly, your loss will be quick, unexpected and heartbreaking.  As my grandmother who raised chickens nearly her whole life used to say “if they can get hung up on it, tangled in it, electrocuted by it, choke on it, drown in it, fall into it, fall off of it, or be eaten by it – they will.” And it’s the sad truth that the pitfalls and dangers that present themselves to backyard chickens are wide-ranging and often unpredictable.

Predators, other flock members, family dogs and overeager children all are potential chicken killers. As is egg binding, parasites, fumes from Teflon fry pans, self-cleaning ovens and shatter-proof light bulbs. Not to mention illness or disease.  So part of chicken keeping has to include learning how to deal with the death of these funny, fluffy, personable pets that lay the best eggs you will ever eat.”  Lisa Steele, from her blog Fresh Eggs Daily

So, I get it.  All true scenarios, some of which we’ve seen, including overeager children, low strafing hawk runs, and even an early morning fox in the back yard just to mention a few.

But we’ve been safe or lucky or a little of both.  I told Janelle that I felt bad because most of all, I think we are supposed to take care of those who can’t take care of themselves.  And, yes, there is a Godly message in that conviction as well.  Recall the book of Genesis…..and I think you’ll see what I’m talking about…

On Sunday morning, I got up early, since I couldn’t sleep much.  Got the hens up as I do every morning, but this time paying close attention to Rosa, who was the other half of our dynamic duo of Barred Rock hens.  She was the “sister” of Harriett, arriving together to the Compound last April as one-day old baby chicks.  The human side of me was trying to figure out if she was lonely; was she wandering around looking for Harriett?  Did she see what happened and did she remember?  Was she remorseful?

Was she grieving….as she wandered around the backyard all by herself?

It was truly a sad sight…or at least I was convincing myself of that.

I do believe some of those feelings were true.  There is a natural order of things within a backyard flock.  It’s called the “pecking order” and we’ve all heard of it before.  It’s a real thing, oddly enough.  And when there’s a lose of life within the pecking order, a sorta awkwardness can ensure for a few days, while a new pecking order may need to be established.

Now whether or not Rosa was grieving the loss of her flock-mate, I believe there’s a reminder to us that God knows our grieving.  The basis for Christianity is our belief that God is always with us.  And in that regard, God has stared grief and loss dead in the eyes as well.  Jesus experiences the death of his close friend, Lazarus, and weeps.  And even on the cross, Jesus cries out “Why” because he has endured grief and loss of unbearable measures.

God is with us in our grief, whether it’s in the loss of a family member, close friend….or a backyard “pet”.  God doesn’t always tell us why we’re suffering but he does give us the prayer:  “The Father of all compassion and the God of all comfort, comforts us in all our troubles.”  2 COR 1: 3-4

As we go along our days ahead, my prayer is that we are reminded of God’s gentle hand on our shoulders for comfort, for support, for praise and for encouragement.  God walks along with us all our days.  We are never alone.