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By Pattie Ravenheart

Returning to my apartment from work one night I encountered my neighbors Hannah, and her two sons Satanka 11 yrs and Yakima 8 yrs, who were distraught over a white chicken that had been in the common yard since earlier that morning. The chicken had not been given any food, water, or shelter and its feet were bound by duct tape to prevent her from escaping. Our other neighbors intended on slaughtering the chicken and Hannah and her sons had fervently tried to talk them out of it, to no avail. My first reaction was one of great concern for the chicken, a deep sadness that she would lose her life in the yard I shared with my neighbors; it was unbearable.

And then I was overcome with helplessness; my training from childhood overriding that initial concern. (As a child who grieved over every stray animal, my parents had "taught" me to forget about them. Of course I never did forget, but I did learn to push the images out of my mind, and learned not to act on my heartfelt feelings... after all, it was someone else's problem and I wasn't to interfere.) Here was Yakima challenging this "training" and he implored me to DO something. He said to me, "The neighbors may have the right to kill it, but they don't have the right to treat the chicken unkindly before it dies. The chicken deserves to have food and water, and to be comfortable in the last moments of its life." This wisdom awakened me to the truth that actions can make positive changes, even if they don't FIX the situation.

So we decided to ask the neighbors if the chicken could stay with Hannah and her sons for the night. I borrowed a large cage and some food while Hannah spoke with the neighbors. They agreed, and we happily took the chicken inside, cut the duct tape from her legs and gave her food and water. Our resolve to save her life grew even more as we saw the chicken transform before our eyes, fluffing her feathers and gaining strength with every moment.

The next morning we discovered that the chicken, even after all she had been through, had laid an egg. Yakima wanted the egg given to the neighbor, and while doing so, the neighbors admitted to us that they had changed their minds about killing the chicken and didn't know what to do with her. They were very happy to give the chicken to us. While Hannah, Satanka and Yakima took care of the chicken over the next few days, I busied myself with trying to find her a home. In the meantime the chicken continued to lay an egg daily, which we always gave to the neighbor.

The day the chicken was to be taken to her new "organic" farm home, the neighbor came over to see the chicken and admitted that she had never noticed how beautiful the chicken was and how her daily eggs seemed to be gifts of gratitude. The neighbor also thanked Hannah and her sons for saving the bird's life.

Hannah, we acknowledge you for teaching your sons to care, and to act on that caring. Satanka, we thank you for attending to the chicken's needs while in your family's home. And Yakima, we applaud you for your strength in the conviction that "something can be done. Not only did your conviction teach me to cut through helplessness, it also gave a woman and her family (the neighbor who had the chicken originally) an opportunity to see inherent beauty in an animal previously thought of only as food. And lest we forget, you saved the life of one very lucky, egg-laying chicken.

Pattie Ravenheart volunteers her time as Secretary-Treasurer for Petroglyphs.

Note: This article first appeared in the Summer/Fall 1999 issue.

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