The hens in this yard bring their keeper to a place of peace and reflection.
Finding zen with hens.
In Japan, a walk through the woods is also known as forest bathing, which refers to the therapeutic practice of taking in the sights, smells and sounds of the wilderness. In essence, the hiker is bathing in the woods. This activity, as many a lover of the outdoors can attest, offers immuneboosting and stressrelieving benefits.
On my homestead in central New York, we regularly engage in chicken bathing. This does not mean giving our feathered friends a good washing, but instead is our name for time spent in the chicken yard with the Brahmas, Buff Orpingtons, Ameraucanas, Barred Plymouth Rocks and Rhode Island Reds. The chickens’ fenced-in yard provides plenty of room for them to roam, with a few chairs scattered about for humans to sit and offer treats or take in the sights, smells and sounds.
For there’s something about spending time with chickens in their natural environment that soothes the soul. Perhaps it is their quirky personalities, how one chicken’s call can stand out. (Our loudest hen is Jellybean.)
Or maybe it’s how they follow behind us like ducklings, how leading them across the grass can make one feel as important as Moses guiding his flock.
Their confounding dumbness is endearing, too: the way they plop down at night, one hen atop another, on a ramp leading to a closed coop door, when only two feet away another door is wide open. And there’s the obvious: their miraculous daily eggs.
All of these qualities are part of the chicken charm, but there’s something else, something that leads me to promise you this: Spend just 15 minutes “bathing” in the yard, and you’ll experience moments of wonder.
Our docile Buff Orpington, Sunny, may be foraging through the weeds, her fluffy blond- feathered butt in the air, and in an instant, she’s chasing a wren from her territory like a velociraptor after its prey. Look deep into chickens’ yellow eyes, observe their scaly clawed feet, and you, too, will believe they descended from dinosaurs. Fall asleep in their yard, and they might peck you to death, in their innocent, being-a-chicken way.
And so maybe this feathered contradiction of domestication and wildness is what draws the chicken lover to spend a few extra minutes in the yard. No one in the know will question you when you say you’re going out to check the chickens and you’re gone for an hour.
There’s no age restriction for chicken bathing. In sixth grade, my daughter wrote an essay about our chickens to document a year spent experiencing their wonder. All you need are a few hens and space for them to be their natural chicken selves, and you have access to some of the best therapy in the world.
Spend just 15 minutes “bathing” in the yard, and you’ll experience moments of wonder.
Time spent with Stripes, a Silver Laced Wyandotte, soothes the soul.
For Becky Sernett and her daughter, Amanda, hanging out with hens like Lily, a Light Brahma (below), is great therapy.