Recently I came across an essay I wrote several years ago about the mystery surrounding why chickens cross the road. And as I read the article, it reminded me of people. In our lives we cross roads everyday…some small, some life changing. Crossing roads for us is the act of leaving situations we’re in now and moving on to different ones. And might that be what chickens do too?
I’d like to share some excerpts from my essay with some historical information, descriptions of chicken’s behavior, and my own perceptions of why they cross roads, plus parallels with our own actions.
“According to a British website entitled Poultry Pages, there are more than 75 different breeds of chickens. And the University of Illinois states that chickens have been around since 7000 BC, probably originating in the far east. Chickens evidently took a long time to get to America, since the Plymouth Rock chicken was first shown in a poultry show in 1829.”
“Chickenbox” by Johan Opsomer says that Chicken’s roots are wild, and all pets have some instinctual behavior, so when breeding, chickens tend to run away. Perhaps they cross the road looking for a more suitable mate than the ones back in the hen-house.” And wouldn’t we do the same thing? When there’s not much interesting on our side of the road, wouldn’t we cross the companionship road into new territory to find someone more right for us?
“Chickens have a pecking order–literally. They peck on each others heads to gain top place in the chicken house, and the best pecker gets to have the top position. It seems possible that the chicken on the bottom of the hierarchy crosses the road looking for another group in which it may have better luck. Or maybe its head is sore, and it’s getting away from the pecking.” Doesn’t that make sense? Wouldn’t you seek a new job on a different side of the job road with less criticism and more opportunity? Who wants to stay in a job going nowhere with a sore head?
“Chickens are known for scratching on the ground, and they make good garden weeders. No weed escapes them. People fortunate enough to observe a chicken’s behavior must notice how the dirt flies when the chicken scratches, always behind the chicken. Yes, a chicken always looks forward in its life, so perhaps it’s just following its nose as it crosses the road.” And at times in our life when we’re tired of a situation we’re in…scratching for everything we get…we can reach down and find courage to leave the dirt and weeds and move forward across our garden road to greener grass.
“Chickens can also fly, and it takes about a three-foot fence to keep them in. If some can fly that high, then maybe the ones crossing the road have made a successful escape from the hen-house, and are searching for new territory.” Have you ever been so tired of a rut that’s holding you back, you wish you could fly to higher ground? Then what about making a giant leap to the higher side of the road and find the freedom you long for. Don’t be scared. If chickens can make their escape, so can you. And that still, small Voice inside will guide you along your way with all the peace and confidence you need.
Sometimes you may choose the wrong road, and things are worse than before. We’ve all been there. But when chickens make that mistake, they keep running for another road until they find the right one. So find your roads within yourself, and as Confucius says, “Wherever you go, go with all of your heart.” And you will find the right ones.
“Today chickens are considered more intelligent than was previously believed, but they still can’t tell us why they cross the road. However, since research studies are being done in some of the most prestigious places, we might just learn to communicate. Then, when I see one crossing the road, I’ll just ask. Otherwise, we may never know for sure why chickens cross the road.” But we can know why we do.
I wish you happy roads ahead.
Marilyn Fowler, Author of “Silent Echoes”