For weeks, I planned and built a new home for six chickens based on what Lefty had told me. It would have plenty of wing-flapping room for them and lots of walking-around room for me. At every chance, I would tell them, “You have no idea how wonderful your new home will be!”
I had made a temporary home for Amelia and Emily across the garden path from the one for Gracie, Bessie, Blanche, and Pearl. This was to get them accustomed to each other until they could all be one new flock in their new home.
Each evening and no matter how cold it was, I would cut up grapes and apples and sit between the two groups and take turns hand-feeding them. This was to let them know they were the same. It is not always easy to introduce new chickens to an existing flock.
They often spoke to each other across the garden path. At first, they had distinctive dialects of “City Chicken” and “Country Chicken.” These soon blended together as one, just the way I hoped they would one day blend together as one flock.
It was not easy building during the coldest part of that winter. At first, I had to wait for the occasional warmer days when the ground was not as frozen to dig a deep foundation. Predators can also dig, and they will dig under fencing to get to chickens.
It was also not easy building a large structure single-handedly, but slowly it came together. More than once, I turned to look around, hoping to see Lefty. If he had somehow been there like in the old days, I could ask him what he thought or what I should do next.
Everyone, except for Amelia, enjoyed my evening progress reports. She would listen, but never expressed any interest or excitement like the others. Instead, she paced almost constantly. It seemed obvious that she was miserable in her confined space. She missed her big backyard in the country where she could fly freely with her hatch-mates.
Emily had adapted much better than Amelia. She enjoyed looking out at the garden. She was surprised and delighted that I had learned the Chicken language, and she asked dozens of questions about everything and always very politely too.
Even when Emily encouraged her, Amelia would not speak to me. It seemed as if she would never accept me or her new home. Whatever A Most Wondrous Place was for chickens, I was certain Amelia would never find it with me.
When it was time to move into their new backyard home, Emily was first since she was the smallest. She seemed to panic a little because she was separated from Amelia for the first time. Soon her curiosity took over, and she began exploring. She hopped up onto a fresh hay bale to get a better look at everything.
In the new home, she could see more of the garden. She told me about everything she saw as if I couldn’t see it for myself, but perhaps in a way, I couldn’t. At least, I had never seen the world in the way she described it. Perhaps we sometimes need someone else to help us truly see what has been in front of our eyes all along.
Amelia moved in next. When I picked her up, she felt much lighter than I had expected. She was only a little bigger than Emily. All along, she had been fluffing out her feathers for extra warmth, but it also makes her look braver than she really might be.
As I carried her over to her new home, I thought back to the words, “She needs you.” Amelia seemed so fiercely independent and in need of no one, and she certainly did not need me at all.
When I gently placed her down, she didn’t look around to examine her new home like Emily had done. She didn’t even go over to where Emily was. Instead, she looked into my eyes and hopped straight up no more than six inches off of the ground. That was all her little body would allow without any wing-flapping for lift.
She simply wanted to be picked up and hugged. As I lifted her up, there was no hesitation in her body or in her heart. I held her close and kissed the top of her head.
Then Amelia spoke to me at last. “This is all I ever wanted,” she said. “There are more important things than flying. This is A Most Wondrous Place.”
Then I understood what A Most Wondrous Place means to chickens. I felt it in my heart too.
“I love you, Amelia. This is your home for as long as you want it to be. I will never give you away. But I will also never keep you from leaving. This truly is A Most Wondrous Place because we are here together.”
She said no more to me that day, but perhaps Amelia is what you might call “a chicken of few words.” Emily was still chattering away as I brought over Pearl and Blanche. Bessie and Gracie were last since they were the oldest and largest.
Soon everyone had found their favorite spot for sitting in the early February sun. Amelia’s place was by the door at the front where she had the best view of the clean, icy-blue sky that stretched high above my own house’s roof and chimney. The sky was calling to her, but for the time being, she was fine with waiting there by the door to be the first to greet me.