CHICKEN RUN RECON: TRIBES, BALANCE AND BLUE KOTE
Well, hell. I had a whole idea for a post yesterday all lined up fat and proper when I asked folks “what y’all wanna see on the blog?” The answer was a resounding, deep-fried: TEACHING. As I never ask unless I want to hear the answer, I reckon it’s best to go ahead and dig right in. Here we go.
Recently, we allowed our broody chickens to do their thing over a pile of eggs. When it was all over, I completely forgot the rules for reintroducing grown-ass chickens back into the group. Miss Peabody was no sooner plopped down on the hay before the attempted poultry murder began (to the sweet background of my whoopin and hollerin and such as that). Witches duh, again.
You see, the whole concept of “pecking order” comes from this sort of shenanigans–and chickens have a short memory. What had once been a healthy, established brood became chaos. (Hang in there, we’ll get around the bush eventually.) Here are some of the standard rules about introducing new members to a functioning “tribe” o’ chickens:
1. Wait until dusk or dark. Everyone is all snuggled and snoozy and half-blind and wakes up the next day with their wings around each other all “who the hell are you?” I call this “chicken run recon.”
2. If at all possible, introduce in pairs. Safety in numbers applies here and they will league up, back-to-back.
3. Bring the newbies’ treats and such. First off, it’s comforting–like a woobie–and secondly, less to fight over.
4. Be firm. Do not remove them at the first sign of distress, hold faith that nature will have Her way, and get the hell out of there.
5. Accept that there will be pecking order enacted. This is natural and healthy in establishing balance. One after the other, the older gals will step over to knock a newbie in the butt with her beak. It will chill . . . eventually. 
(These rules get bent sideways if you are introducing young chickens. Research that one–hard.)
And so, we played out rules 1-5 and today all is clucky in the old coop. Twelve babies are now residing in the new one (younger than most would advise, but whatever, Chickapedia) and are already establishing the pecking order of Coop Two. Like a Boss.
So. What the hell does this have to do with teaching? Now. Come on, Batchildren. You didn’t think I’d leave you hanging, did ya?
Lemme tell ya. Mr. Stanley (aka He Who Is Not Amused) was covered in blood today. Yupper. His whole breast just beaten to hell, now covered in Blue Kote, and I reckon I should have seen that one coming, too. You see, he’s Big Daddy, the boss of Coop One. And the order got all cluster-clucked. Been there, felt that, as a teacher.
You see, I teach the Gangani Tribe of Alabama. We are small, tightly knit and family oriented. At present, I have seven students and a sister Priestess all oathed in and cozy–but we have had our chaos. My second-degree chicka has been around the longest and doesn’t hanker to newbies much. Can’t say as I blame her. In the last year, we have had to remove three students from our stead on account of asshattery, so when I dropped my fine, fresh, adult student into the hypothetical coop this year without so much as a how-do-you-do, you could hear the squawking all the way down County Road 158. (My chest is still a little bloody from that one.) Our Tribe has been down that chicken run–one too many times–and I forgot rules 1-3. Rules 4-5? Well, let’s just say that I’m hanging on to a bottle of Blue Kote and riding out the storm. I love the new chicken. She’s got real laying potential and unbridled adoration for this here coop. I reckon, if she can withstand the pecking, so can I.  Yet, I do see the need now for Rule 6: Know when to stop building your brood.
I’m there. All family, All in.
I suppose it’s different for us than other groups. We are an initiated family trad: you won’t see Facebook updates about my “leveling up another group of initiates this Friday!” on account of the nature of my Tribe. We don’t hanker to a fast-food magical mentality. Such a learning experience is not sustaining, and while I do love Chinese noodles, I damn sure know how I’ll feel an hour later. Our *brood* lives in the same spiritual house, eats together, loves/fails/argues/cries/laughs on the same dirt as our kin. It’s not a path for the weak of spirit, or the weak of character. We are heritage Pagans in a technologically-infected society and will fight to keep that sacred lineage, ‘ary time.
I say “my land/tribe/student/husband/altar.” On account of: they are indeed mine. I am tribal in nature–as is my Tribe. I suppose its an inherently Southern frame of mind. You see, “mine” is a shared term around these parts and all of “my” people say it with me. It is “their” coop, run, food, time and I am “their” rooster. This corporeal sense of belonging only occurs when the environment is in divine balance, the pecking order is established and the brood understands that the rooster will (in fact) die for their protection and health. It’s simply surreal when that level of trust reverberates souls in circadian rythm. As “their” teacher, I understand that sudden movements–or drive-by chicken introductions–can stress them out. My chest will be the first one pecked until peace is restored because they depend upon that leadership. It’s in the job description, man. When they look at me, they say “mine.” And I’m just fine with that. It lends a sense of comfort, of home, of accountability in a fubar world.
And I’ve always preferred a medium-rare steak over a pile of shanky noodles. Sure, it costs more. Everything that’s worth it always does.
Memory: A professor on my thesis leans in, sun slanting on her desk, hand tapping her pencil firmly against my refusal to go to a conference on my son’s birthday. “When you are on your deathbed, do you want to be surrounded by your children and friends thinking: I could have been somebody? I could have published more?” As I threw my purse over my shoulder, ending a five-year friendship on my way out the door, “Better that than to be surrounded by books, thinking: I could have had family? I could have loved more?”
And so, we are closing down for a spell after my last auditor initiates (finally) this Friday. Our, um, coop is full, balanced and healing. As a good Rooster, I cannot allow anymore chaos, bad chickens, bad layers, or bad runs in my Tribe. We are on the path of peace. And we are, finally, home.
Memory: I had not been home in so long. Walking into my Granma’s house, the smells, that feeling, my hand knowing which drawer held the right knife, which closet to look for the blue afghan, that chair with my indention waiting for me in perfect steadiness. How I slept in utter abandon to the tune of her snores across the hall. Unafraid. My room. My books. My grandma. My home. 
In saying “mine” we find . . . ourselves. In sharing “mine” we find each other.
I’m so far away from that now that she has gone, orphaned in her death. But I remember what it felt like to be granted the privilege of mine. As silly as it sounds, I think this is what it’s like for chickens. The need for security, a little piece of land, the familiar smell of hay, the comfort of a benevolent/strong leader. (Of course, we share the proverbial coop, all have a key and come and go as we please.) We all need so few things, really, to be happy. And sometimes we just need that cluck in a coop as the sun falls below the trees and the knowledge that, while we may struggle for balance in the day, when we drop into twilight we will find ourselves snuggled against the beat of a tribe that loves us. Black feathers against red, white nestled in yellow.
And a little Blue Kote to soothe the pain. Eh. I deserved it.
1. Iffin you are interested in chickens, here’s your one stop shop: Backyardchickens.com
2. All of my students at this time are water signs.
3. “It’s the same old story, same old song and dance, my friend.” Aerosmith had *this* one pegged.