My day started with roosters crowing at 3 am and every few minutes onwards. All day chickens dominated. I walked through flocks of the semi wild ones living in the grass by the road to my house, and along the way to the pool where a family keeps a whole room of chickens, who wander out along the road and into the fields nearby. A truck passed with a loudspeaker announcing beautiful little baked chickens, another was stopped in town with a crowd buying the frozen recently killed. A woman who sells snacks on the street corner nearby was holding a wildly squawking chicken, whose neck she was wringing. I have seen chickens in Ecuador casually carried under arm along a busy street, tied to the top of buses, to the bottom of the Cessna in which I flew to the jungle, carried in a purse onto a bus.
As a city-dwelling north American my previous experience of chickens was only as body parts for food, wrapped in cellophane, sold in supermarkets. When I first moved to Ecuador some friends bought chickens for their little farm. They built a nice coop for them, with a ramp and places to roost. But the chickens wouldn’t go in. Every morning they were in the trees. “Chickens in trees? ” asked the north Americans. “How odd!” Then one day we realized “chickens are birds!” Of course they want to roost in trees. Chickens are birds, and they must be the most abused beings on the planet. Yes, pigs and cows, but no one ties a live cow to the bottom of a plane.
Here I am in one of the richest bird habitats in the world, my daily activity plentifully adorned with bird sightings and bird calls and songs. I love these birds. I say I’m living here for Bird Therapy.
So I’m including the chicken. Like the toucan it is splendiferously colored and large. Like the cock of the rock it has stunning head decorations. And its call! The males’ call can be heard all over the neighborhood. As bird calls go it is very loud and distinctive and interesting.
Too bad they can’t fly much. I think perhaps we’ve bred them to have heavy bodies and small wings.
I imagine a world where chickens are only a rare Asian bird soaring over the wilds of Indo China, where birders pay thousands of dollars to hike into the jungle with a guide, and there, on a remote birding tower, they grab the binoculars and exclaim “a flock of chickens!” They snap pictures with wild abandon, thinking of all the people they can tell, while the thrilling and exotic cock-a-doodle-doo oooo” drifts back on the wind.