Black Cheep Cheep - Reflections on a Chicken

Billy and Black Cheep Cheep

Billy and Black Cheep Cheep

Yes, that is our chicken, its actually a barred rock rooster that the kids named Black Cheep Cheep.

Ummm...yes, he is actually in our kitchen...


No, it is not the norm, ok, here's the story... 

Oh my

Oh my

       Several years ago, Black Cheep Cheep arrived with a batch of broiler chicks.  He was the "mystery chick" that the hatchery so generously includes with your order of meat type chicks.  It's no longer a mystery that the mystery chick is usually a male of the lighter egg laying persuasion of chicken, and as such, other than a select few, seemingly without a particularly useful purpose.  He stuck out amongst the yellow down covered chicks with his dark colored down.  All of his contemporaries grew at about 7 times his rate and seemed to push him around.  He would run around very quickly cheep cheeping very loudly as he went, fearing for his existence.  Hence the name Black Cheep Cheep.  When his companions moved on and he was alone he got to meet and join our laying hens.  Oh but surprise, there was already a rooster in that hen house and he had to endure his company as well.  Knowing we were preparing for the move to Haiti, we reduced the laying hen flock giving some away to new homes where they could provide eggs.  Eventually he was delivered from his mean and nasty counterpart, when that rooster became so mean and nasty to every living thing that he graduated to soup.  He also survived living with our turkeys.  For those who don't know, chickens and turkeys living together are more prone to certain disease problems, so it is not considered the best idea.  Yes, we were rule breakers. [knowing this was at our own peril]  Eventually his remaining flock of hens succumbed to wildlife and canine predators.   Black Cheep Cheep is not sporting a grandiose rooster tail anymore because he has literally has his backside bitten away on multiple occasions.  I have seen him play oppossum until the attacker found it boring or I rescued him.  He survives mostly on seeds, bugs, and foraging around the horses.  Recently he has figured out that crowing outside our front door sometimes yields treats from Lexi or Ethan.  This morning he was so confident about their kindness, that he marched right in.  He has the distinction of not only being the first chicken to enter our kitchen alive, but to leave on his own feet without ever knowing about terms like soup or pot.  

     Are we crazy?  That answer I'll leave to you.  But I do think there is an object lesson for us in the life of this rooster.  Despite a life with many struggles, he usually has his head up looking for the next good thing or blessing.  He certainly perseveres.  He is perhaps the most pleasant rooster we have had.  And, I can't get in his head, but he doesn't demonstrate negative results of his challenges, and it would almost seem he keeps an attitude of gratitude for the [mostly] free range freedoms he has and each day that he gets to go about being a chicken.  Can I honestly say, every day,  that I live up to the example set by this simple chicken?  Unfortunately, the honest answer is no.  But it certainly should be my goal...

All creatures look to you to give them their food at the proper time. When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are satisfied with good things.
— Psalm 104:27-28

     If you visit an American grocery store today, it would seem that chicken is the lower cost animal protein.  This was not always the case.  Historically, poultry was the meat of royalty and nobility.  Only those who were wealthy could afford to take grain, that could feed people, and feed it to animals that thrive on grain.  Ruminants, like goats found in Haiti and sheep found in the young Shepard David's flock, ate grasses and plants that are indigestible to simple stomached creatures like man.  The microbes in their stomach turn this plant material into usable protein and energy, which in turn provides a digestible protein source for people.  This is why many traditional dishes on the island use a meat other than chicken, it was sourced from animals that complimented rather than competed with people for food.  Today if you want chicken in Haiti, you have two main options provided you are fortunate enough to have the funds.  One, buy a chicken (a living one) at the market, take it home and do all that is necessary to complete your dish. Or buy frozen drumsticks at a supermarket.  These dark meat drumsticks are almost a by product of the poultry production in the nearby USA where lean boneless chicken breast is the majority concept of the term chicken.

     In the American west, bison grazed the prairies.  The health of the prairie depended as much on the bison, as the health of the bison depended on the prairie.  The Native Americans depended on both, and both needed the stewardship of Man.  From ancient times until today, the health of man, animal, and the "garden" have been interlinked.  Even our pet animals of today affect the health of people and vice versa.  

     These are some topics to ponder another day, for now I need to go keep a certain chicken outdoors where he belongs and learn some more from his example...