There comes a time when you need to give your land a rest and let the land lie fallow.
We all need rest, which is why God gave us the fall and winter seasons. It’s a time for nature to recover from her productive seasons; a time for hens to stop laying eggs, molt their feathers, and stand around like huddled balls conserving energy.
So it was finally time for my family to relinquish the one thing we delighted in for the past 11 years: our backyard flocks of chickens. It was an easy choice; and then, again, it wasn’t. Easy because we didn’t get eggs in the fall and winter, and keeping chickens, from a production standpoint, wasn’t lucrative through those cold, dreary, wet months. Not easy because we miss the pastoral scenery that our chickens painted across our backyard horizon, lending lovely spots of animated color as they scratched and moved about.
The space adjacent to their coop had been trampled and stripped over the last few years. Even though we allowed our hens and roosters to have free run outside that space, the space adjacent to their coop was where we kept them when we couldn’t watch over them from predators. Over the years, the chickens decimated the greenery there to the point where in the winter, it was an unpleasant task to go up there and feed them early in the cold mornings: squish, splat, splot. Our feet would maneuver treacherously around the uneven, slippery, muddy ground. The only surviving vegetation was the blackberry that no one bothered to clip back and the stinging nettle that opportunely began taking over when the grasses were eaten away.
Ah, I’d talked to my family about the day that we would take a break from chickens. We would take a break after our pet hen died, I said. And after our beautiful pet Buff Orpington of 9-1/2 years died this summer, I kept true to my word. We gave up our chickens.
It’s awfully quiet back there in the chicken pasture this fall. Too quiet. We’ll have to get chickens again soon. But not until the land has had a chance to rest and recover. As Ecclesiastes says, there is a season for everything. When we let our land, our bodies, and everything else rest, we’ll be glad we did.