Free-range hens in flight

Video of flying free-rang hens

Every morning I open the doors for our youngest layers, and then I find a safe place to watch. They enter the world with style each day, flying, squawking and flapping. A couple of times, flying birds collided me when I was puttering with something outside their coop. They pack a punch when they’re moving, and the impact left in me shock for just a split second, wondering where I was and what happened. The surreal truth hit me like a punch line: You have been struck by a chicken, and you’re OK.

The hens are even more surprised than I am after a collision — even though I was the stationary object. It seems like they can’t steer very well when they’re in flight. Maybe that’s why chickens don’t fly too often. For them, taking flight is literally taking a huge leap of faith, hoping that they’ll land in a good place at the end of their little adventure.

It seems to us that these chickens are at their peak age for flying. They’re five months old, so they’re not quite grown yet, but they’re big enough to be strong and bold. I always assumed that it became harder for them to fly as their bodies grew a bit heavier, but maybe it’s an emotional thing too. These flight-happy birds are still teenagers. They’re willing to take that leap of faith because they’re filled with youthful optimism and a desire to take the world by storm. They haven’t yet settled into the serious work of laying eggs yet, so they’re still a bit fancy free.

Now I am completely anthropomorphizing, but that’s part of what makes my job fun. When I watch those birds flying, and I remember some of the best parts of being a teenager — when I felt like I was just taking flight and the world lay ahead of me like a wide field, gently hemmed by trees.

It’s good to remember that in such a vivid way — especially when you’re a parent. This morning, I’ve been daunted by the zeal of my four-year-old, trying to channel his energy into cleaning the house instead of tearing it apart. In some ways, he’s like those young birds, ready to leap into the sky, and hungry for adventure. At this stage of my life, it seems like I’m the one breaking the falls of adventure seekers, whether they’re feathered of not. That’s fine, as long as I keep a place in my own heart that’s ready to take that leap of faith myself, briefly flapping and flying into the unknown, just for the glory of it.

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