By Rev. Keith Turman
I bought eight chickens today. You might think this a strange move, since my wife, Chan, is allergic to eggs, my son, Ross, is a vegan, and I am ninety-percent vegan. Even though I’ll catch a fish now and then, or occasionally call the pizza parlor, I mostly eat plants. But raising chickens helps me support this idea that I’m a farmer. The chickens also help me create powerful compost, and they will help me in my quest to be a faithful member of FUMC Waynesville. I’ll be able to feed people—dozens of eggs each week.
The chickens are six days old, so it will be a while before they start cackling out the eggs. The feed store had four different breeds, so we channeled our inner Noah and got two of each. Our little brood—Golden Comets, Wyandottes, Australorps, and Rainbow Roosters—are all snuggled together under the heat lamp. The Golden Comet is an American bird—a cross between Rhode Island Reds and White Leghorns. They are egg-laying machines, but also very laid-back, so we expect to become dear friends. The Wyandotte is named for the indigenous Wyandot people of North America. They lay cream-colored eggs. Australorp is an Australian breed. They are a beautiful black bird, and if the sun hits them just right, they can have a beetle-green or blue-ish gray sheen. Their eggs are light brown. Our little Rainbow Roosters are so cute! The Rainbow Rooster is a multicolored chicken from India. Evidently, it’s a mystery what they will grow up to look like. Rainbow Roosters lay eggs. Go figure. And the eggs can be green, blue and sometimes pink. A very different kind of bird. The Cyndi Lauper of chickens.
I’m a bit concerned about what we’ve done. I wonder if Noah’s family was anxious about everyone being cooped up in the ark? Chickens can be mean. They are internationally recognized for their ability to peck into an ordered existence. They can be cruel to injured or weak birds, and can literally peck each other to death. So I asked the experts at ‘thehappychickencoop.com’ about my situation. Different breeds can actually live together happily in what chicken farmers like me call a ‘mixed flock.’ But it’s a mixed bag. Some breeds are docile and some are more aggressive. Some get cranky when it’s cold, and others get stressed in the heat. It’s probably hard to prove, but I’m sure the brown-egg layers are jealous of the green-egg layers. Especially after Dr. Seuss made them famous. The Wyandottes are bigger than the Comets, so I’m worried about bullying.
But I’ve been told, and even know from experience, that if they start life together little and cute and sweet—if they snuggle together under the heat lamp, drink together at the water cooler, and feast together at the trough—the chicken coop can be a happy place.
I can’t help but think it’s like that for humans. Our preschool is a beautiful and fascinating observation. The playground and the nap room and the snack table—it’s proof that we can live together joyfully—even though we are different colors and sizes and temperaments. Sometimes we grow up and instinctively migrate to our own kind. We forget what it’s like to be at the table with people who are different. We forget that God created equal, and that all we ever needed to know, we learned in kindergarten. FUMC Waynesville helps me remember the table, where Jesus invites all to come. FUMC Waynesville helps me remember the cross, where the ground is always level. Jesus once said, “Whoever welcomes this child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me; for the least among all of you is the greatest.” -Luke 9:48