Thursday, October 14, 2010

pecking order

It seems that chicken farmers have been observing hens for centuries, coming up with all sorts of quotable quotes that help humans relate to chickens. Quotes like: "Too many hens in the henhouse" and "Don't count your chickens before they hatch." Fascinated by the primitive, yet sophisticated behaviour of our chickens, we too are discovering a little bit about human nature mirrored in our feathery friends.


We now have six chickens, all of them "rescued" from the animal shelter. The first set (Penny, Patty, and Henrietta) arrived as docile and friendly as hoped for, and Annike quickly became one of the gals. Aside from the time Chicken Patty stole the graham cracker out of her hand, they seem to be getting along just fine.


Enter the second set of chickens... A hen fight broke out within minutes of introducing Dumpling, Cacciatore, and Benedict to the hen house. It was Junior High revisited. Like two cliques of middle schoolers, these ladies pecked and flew at each other. I had to drag Annike out of the coop before she got in the way of flying beaks. They have now reached some sort of agreement not to kill each other, but competition in the house unmasked their aggressive sides, and these girls are downright mean to each other.


It is strange to witness the product of primitive selfishness in our chickens. The established pecking order works so that the first set of chickens get to eat while the others cower in the corner. Our formerly gentle chickens now go on a regular tirade to prove their high rank in the nesting house. The most interesting part to me is that the meanest chicken is now Henrietta. She was once at the bottom of the original pecking order. The one who was picked on most is now doing most of the picking.

Human nature at its ugliest, looks a lot like this. Those who have taken the brunt of someone else's pecking order look for opportunities to pick on others. Any school bully has a history of being bullied. And without God in our lives, we too are stuck treating people the way we have always been treated. The truth is that God created us to be different than the animals, who live only for themselves. He designed us to love and care for others in our lives, and to live in the freedom of forgiveness for those who have treated us poorly in the past. Jesus came to earth especially for those at the bottom of the pecking order. He came to offer them a chance to put off the old way, and choose another way.

"You were taught... to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness." Ephesians 4:22-24

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