There is little that gives me more joy than watching the actions of baby animals. It is both mentally fascinating and emotionally rewarding – a combination that is pretty hard to beat.
Back in the early 1960’s we lived in a tiny little town called Melsetter in Southern Rhodesia. We had to be mostly self-sufficient so every year we’d get day old chicks, which we’d raise for meat or eggs. Anyway one year my dad decided to change things up a little and got day old ducklings instead. He brought them home, safe and secure in a large box lined with straw, laid the box on the kitchen counter-top, gathered us kids around, opened the box and asked, “What are these?”
My younger sister Sarah, who must have been about four years old at the time, looked into the box with wide eyes. Somehow she knew they weren’t day old chickens, but they sure looked like them! So she said “Chockens!” My dad didn’t correct her 🙂.
On the lawn in the front yard we had a wire mesh enclosure that we’d always used for the chickens. In fact, for reasons I’ve never understood, we called it the chicken-run. The ducklings were placed in this and were perfectly happy, after all if it was good enough for chickens surely it was good enough for chockens?
The chockens may have been content, but my dad wasn’t. As he explained things, ducks were water creatures, and as such they needed a pond in which to swim. So we marked an extension of the chicken-run on the ground, dug a decent sized pond, sealed it with cement, filled it with water, and let it sit to ensure it didn’t leak. This effort took days, during which the chockens watched with interest, their little bodies pressed up against the fence so they could gain a better view. The last thing we did was extend the chicken mesh fence to include the pond, leaving the separating fence still intact.
The big day came. We herded the ducklings… no, I should make an effort to get this right – we herded the chockens up to the far end of the chicken-run then my dad pulled out the separating mesh wall, thereby converting the smallish chicken-run into a spacious chocken-run, complete with built-in pond. We all stood back and waited for the ducklings to make the much anticipated dash for the pond.
It didn’t happen, they just stayed in the area to which they had been herded. After a while my mom decided to get things moving and shooed them toward the pond.
And that is when something really interesting happened…
When the ducklings got to the line where the fence had been they all stopped dead, little bodies pressed up against the now imaginary fence. They were quite unable to cross it, no matter how many times we tried to urge them past it. Eventually we resolved the problem of the invisible fence by carrying them over it and plopping them into the water, where their instincts took over and their webbed feet kicked into action. I’m pretty sure they thoroughly enjoyed their first ever swim.
In many ways we humans are just like those little duckings, or those little chockens if you prefer 🙂. How? We become so used to the boundaries of our existence that we are quite unable to realize they are self-imposed, artificial, and that we can step over them any time we want. The next time you reach the walls of your chocken-run I encourage you to simply open your mind and fly over them – I think you’ll love the pond you find when you do.