Every day is Ferntree Gully Respect for Chickens Day in our home.
My calendar helpfully tells me when a day has an extra significance. Those not similarly blessed may not realise the importance of tomorrow's date: May 4 is International Respect for Chickens Day.
In our home, every day is Ferntree Gully Respect for Chickens Day, thanks to the autocratic behaviour of one of our five hens. She certainly believes that birds of a feather should flock together but is convinced that her flock is human. You might say she takes an eggumenical approach (sorry!).
She has decided in her old age she does not want to live with the other hens, and tries to roost on the television just inside the back door. Shooed outside, she settles for the top shelf of a rickety bookcase housing shoes.
My wife named her Cookie for her intrepid nature (after explorer James Cook), refusing confinement to the safe world of the chicken run. Cookie has lost part of her beak and one toe, we know not how, but she is undaunted.
The first of us to rise in the morning will see her face pressed against the glass back door, like a Wallace and Gromit cartoon, as she awaits breakfast. Whenever my wife appears in the backyard Cookie runs after her, and waits centimetres from the trowel when she gardens, watching for delicacies.
Recently we were breakfasting on fruit in the garden, and Cookie came to investigate. First she flapped up on to the little table, then the arm of my wife's chair, then her shoulder, and then feet first into her plate of fruit, and began pecking.
Another time my wife came home from a family event with part of a sausage in a roll. She gave the sausage to the dog and the roll to Cookie, but Cookie ran straight at the dog and tried to peck the sausage from his jaws. He had the last laugh, turning aside to swallow the meat and racing back to grab the roll. Even so, they both know who is boss – if he comes too close, she charges him.
No doubt Cookie offers many spiritual lessons to someone more philosophical than I. Perhaps she would endorse the contemporary mantra of the self-absorbed, “go for it”. Or, as a shoe-seller puts it, “just do it”. I draw a moral from the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount: “Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?”
Jesus is speaking about trust and the futility of worrying about the future. May we all face it as fearlessly as Cookie.
Barney Zwartz is a senior fellow of the Centre for Public Christianity.
This article first appeared in The Age.