The COVID-19 pandemic awakened many dormant cravings and anxieties in all of us. With grocery shelves emptying due to an increasingly stressed supply chain, for me, as for many, this manifested in a desire to become more self-sufficient — to research and pursue the start of a nascent homesteading effort. While this had long been a back-burner ambition of mine, with the world on pause, the time was clearly ideal.
To embark on this journey, I placed an order for four female barred rock chicks. Within weeks if not days of doing so, news started to spread across the media. Chicks were in short supply as others had adopted a similar mindset. While I felt fortunate to have had some timely foresight as chicks became all but unattainable, I had no idea how truly fortunate I was.
As the days grew into weeks and months, I observed their endearing, yet complex demeanors develop – each with their own pronounced individuality. Fluffy coats slowly morphed into a fancy dress of black and white feathers. And with each milestone in their lives, from pullet and plumage to egg production and beyond, I found myself not only in awe of them, but growing in ways I hadn't anticipated.
As a wildlife photographer, I have traveled the globe for over a decade photographing some of nature’s most amazing animal behaviors. While most of us think we know chickens as commonplace farm animals, I have learned that hens are anything but common. To discover the extraordinary behaviors and pure charisma of these backyard birds, whose intelligence has been estimated to match that of a four-year old child, has been truly astounding. And I’d very much like to share the magic of this experience with the Audubon community.