Why Did the Chicken Fly the Coop?
By Jean Oman, Co-Founder
We’ve only had chickens at Cypress Swamp Ranch for a short time, just a few months, actually. John grew up with them on his parents’ farm, but we didn’t plan to have chickens here – let me explain. Our Ranch is known in the neighborhood for its lack of squirrels, rabbits, chickens, outside cats, and other creatures. In fact, as you travel down the gravel and dirt roads that bring you to our gate, you see all those creatures and more, in abundance. However, as soon as you cross the Ranch property line, there is a marked absence. Instead, you are typically greeted by a variety of overly-friendly dogs – Labradors, Retrievers, a Shepherd, and some Heinz 57 mixes. You will see some cardinals in the trees, an occasional woodpecker, and maybe a few brave Florida herons or storks in the far pond, but never close to the house, or within sight of the many places where the dogs choose to lie down, watching...
My cousin’s son built a chicken coop last year out of pallets. We were very proud of him and impressed with his creativity, as he gave us a “tour” of his project. He told us of his dream to expand the coop into an entire enclosure. His mother’s organic garden could be contained inside, free from insects, thanks to the chickens’ God-given desire to feast on them! We marveled at his ingenuity. When told that additional manpower was needed to execute his building plan, we enthusiastically volunteered to help. All the while, we were thinking how impressed we were with the family’s growing self-sustainability and wondered if we should be considering the same.
A few weeks later we drove up to the Georgia home-place, where my Mother was born and raised, and many of her family still live. It is always so beautiful there, and we are always blessed when we have the chance to return for a visit. Before we knew it, work began, and the chicken “run” took shape. Fencing enclosed a large rectangular area, including the coop, with plenty of room for the organic vegetable garden. We could hardly believe our eyes! The chickens would be safe, and the vegetables wouldn’t be eaten by pests!
On the trip home to Florida we began to talk about having a chicken coop of our own. After all, the neighbors had free-range chickens. We had to remind ourselves that they didn’t have the terrier-mix breed dogs that we have, who would never allow that. However, if we could build a coop that would keep the dogs out, would that work? The seed of planning had been planted…
Within weeks, we purchased two brand new chicken coops, ready for assembly; all that was needed were some residents. One bright spring morning shortly after, we woke up to a rooster crowing – he was in one of our coops, along with two hens! The neighbor caught three of their free-range chickens and gifted them to us. That same day we put up a small electric fenced area to keep the dogs out. After a visit to the feed store, we brought home six baby hens to live and grow in the other coop. Our chicken adventure had begun!
Weeks passed. The formerly enthusiastic, salivating dogs had lost interest in the chickens, after getting “popped” by the electric fence a time or two, and appeared to have given up. The two mature hens were gracious to give us eggs approximately every other day. The baby chicks grew to full size and it would just be a matter of time before they joined in on the egg-laying.
We knew that we probably needed to enclose the bottom of the coops with some strong metal mesh, but so far hadn’t felt an urgent need to do so. We moved the coops every few days so that the chickens could peck on the grass (which they completely destroyed in those areas!) and they seemed to really enjoy the fact that the coops were flush with the ground. We kept the thought of cottonmouth snakes, foxes and other predators in the backs of our minds, but didn’t worry too much.
After hearing how two different moccasins had successfully entered our cousin’s fortified coop and destroyed two of their chickens, along with numerous eggs, we decided we’d better shore-up our own coops right away. We came up with a plan, and off I headed to the hardware store to buy supplies, as work began on the first coop to reinforce it. John had successfully removed the not so baby chickens into a large dog crate, and although squawking, they seemed secure there. When I returned with the strongest, yet smallest metal mesh I could find, we decided to complete the first coop and then start on the second one for the mature chickens.
All was going according to plan, but you know the saying, “The best laid plans…” We were capturing the mature chickens to put them in the dog crate, as we shored-up their coop, but one of the hens found a small opening and took off like a shot. This chicken had been free-range before coming to live in our “coop.” We watched as she flew and ran across the pasture with wings flapping. She didn’t know what to do with her new-found freedom, as she flew, ran and squawked like a maniac. She decided the horses were not the best companions for her, continued to fly and run all over the other areas, and finally settled-in, pecking peacefully next to the coop she had known all these past months, just outside and inches away from her former companions; however, she was no longer within the shelter of its protection.
We tried everything we could think of and had numerous suggestions from people and internet sites on how to catch that slippery bird. When she was originally caught and brought here, she had been “trapped” in a dog crate, enticed by the food inside. She wouldn’t go near the one we put out this time, even with tasty morsels deeply inside. We tried locking her former companions up into their “roost” during the night and keeping the bottom of the coop open so she could join them. After sticking one foot in, she decided that she didn’t like the feel of the new mesh on her very dainty and particular feet, so off she went again.
We watched this pretty little hen, trying to outwit and outplay her to no avail. Many clever ideas to capture her were used – things we thought would appeal to her appetites and passions. Yet, she apparently had a much stronger desire to be “free,” out where she was clueless about her vulnerability to the predators whose sole desire was to bring her down. The rooster and other hen continued crowing at her from inside, but she decided not to rejoin them.
As several days passed by, we marveled at how the dogs were ignoring her. All were within reach with their high speed legs and fast jaws. Many times they could have snatched her up, yet they continued to put on innocent faces, even sleeping for hours. I even became fooled by their act, thinking that they didn’t care anymore. Maybe all her bluff and bluster with the squawking and flapping wings had made them feel as we did, that there was never any hope of getting her back into safety again, and she would remain on her own. The instinct of caution was leaving us all and consciences were “searing over.”
The parallels to humanity became mind-boggling. How many young people are determined, far too early, to leave the “coop” of good families and parental safety, solely desiring the “freedom” they believe they will find outside. They are not ready or equipped to make it on their own and are not mature or knowledgeable about the dangers of the world. It takes guidance and wisdom before one is ready to build that safe “coop” of their own. Youngsters decide every day that they don’t like the confines they have to live in, with rules, including chores, clean rooms, food and safety that are there to protect them. Instead, they crave what they perceive is freedom, and go out into the slavery of danger that the glittering world tempts them with, only to find that they are living in the muck and mire of the pig sty.
We continued to try to catch Miss Hen. At one point she became so determined to escape us, that she decided to fly off across the grass toward the trees. This bravado was her fatal mistake, because those sleeping dogs had not been ignoring her at all. They had been silently communicating with each other and waiting for her to make a judgment error. They clearly knew that they probably had one chance only. Within split seconds of her flight, they were after her in a finely-arranged takedown and capture. There wasn’t anything we helpless humans could do to save her. We stood by, watching her destruction. Our hearts ached as we wanted to cry out, “We tried to point you to safety so many times, but you ignored us!”
It is important to note that the dogs did not do anything they were not created to do with their strong instincts. Just moments before, they had been playing with the children here on the Ranch, as they always gently and tenderly do. There is no “taste of blood” or “now they have killed” issues that freak ignorant people out these days. I’ve seen one of our retriever-mix dogs do it many times with rats. She doesn’t want to eat them, she just knows they don’t belong here, and takes care of it. Cats will do the same.
None of the dogs were interested in eating their prey. Instead, her lifeless body was left on the grass, tossed aside as though she had never existed, as they went back to their regular spots to sleep. I couldn’t help but see the human parallel and how Satan sets out to destroy his “prey.” When it is over, and he can do no more destruction, he walks away with his nose up in the air with not a drop of pity or sorrow. See also countless drug overdoses and suicides…
Over the many years of my life, I’ve been asked why I trust God with my heart, soul and life, and why I have chosen to live in the “coop,” that He created. Surely I must have missed out on the fun of the world all these years. Don’t think for a moment that those desires have not been there from time to time. Temptation comes to everyone. It is what we do with it that makes the difference. Yes, I am grateful for the “Coop” of his protection and love which has saved me from many disasters.
Others ask me, “Why would a loving God allow suffering, cancer, accidents, starvation, abuse, evil and death.” It is truth and most important to understand that He didn’t cause any of these things to happen, nor were any of them His master plan or desire. We silly human chickens decided that instead of staying in the safety of the coop, aka Garden of Eden, we could be like God by an act of disobedience (eating the forbidden fruit = flying out of the coop door) and running the show all by ourselves. Weren’t we so smart!
God doesn’t want any puppets in His Kingdom – He only wants those who want to be with Him. With a broken heart, He had to let us go and His greatest desire has been our return to Him ever since. He made the way over 2,000 years ago when He gave His perfect and only Son to die for our sins, in order to bring us back into the “coop” with Him, to live safely and happily under His protection.
Conditions in this earthly roost are not always exactly the way we desire them to be. We have to deal with things that we don’t like, like financial problems, unruly children, disagreeable spouse, or other less than perfect conditions (a mesh floor). There are so many things outside the coop that tempt and call to us. The worst part of life in God’s coop is watching those outside, who have chosen to live in places where they could quickly be destroyed forever, but refuse to come into the safety and protection.
However, those of us who are inside KNOW that we are safe, forever, and no evil predators can ever reach, touch or destroy us. Yes, we will make mistakes and still do sinful things. However, one day that “coop” of our human flesh will open up, and those who are His children will be released to be in the freedom of His everlasting love, never to fear the defeated predator Satan or his attacks, ever again. How perfect and beautiful everything will be as we will live in the Light of our Lord Jesus!
As Job so eloquently said, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end He will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh shall I see God; I myself will see Him with my own eyes – I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” Job 19:25-27.
YES – it is going to happen! “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.” Romans 14:11. That is the dividing point of life for every heart. Either you can’t wait for that day to come, or you are dreading it and don’t want to think about it. The Creator promises that it is coming. Get into that “Coop” of His love while you are here, and don’t live out in the world where you are unprotected. You will be eternally glad that you did!