Not a Poultry Experience
At 4 years old, most children have the luxury of losing their first baby tooth in some uneventful yet exciting way, like biting into an apple or discovering their tooth at the bottom of a bowl of Lucky Charms. This initial surprise is usually followed by shrieks of excitement and the thumping of feet running up the stairs to shove it under a pillow.
I was not so lucky. In fact, on that eventful afternoon in the summer of 1994, as my 5-year-old, chubby-cheeked self crouched picking dandelions among the chickens, my first baby tooth was not lost: It was stolen.
Who, might you ask would be such a heartless culprit as to strip a child of the magical experience of losing their first tooth? The culprit was no person. My “tooth fairy” was, in fact, a very insensitive Plymouth Rock rooster that apparently didn’t give a damn about childhood magic.
It’s not that I wasn’t used to handling chickens. In fact, up until that point, I, Laura Field, had spent my entire life playing in as much chicken dust and dirtiness as any good mother would allow their little girl, before getting hosed off and ushered inside for supper. Unfortunately, my “entire life” of five years was not very long to be steeped in chicken culture, and certainly not long enough to recognize certain “chicken truths” of the poultry world.
So on that fateful day, as I glanced up from my dandelion picking to see the face of our beautiful white Plymouth Rock rooster glaring at me from behind a patch of flowers, my first reaction was not to run, but to reach out.
From there, my memory stops. I recall only being rushed to the doctor with tears in my eyes, a bloody mouth, and one less tooth. My mother hounded the doctor with worries of bacteria and every other possible microscopic demon that might lurk in the toenails of a chicken. The doctor, however, was focused on other things.
“My biggest concern,” he said, “is that she will likely be permanently emotionally scarred and fearful from now on.” (Boy, was that guy wrong.)
This event might have sparked some parents to get rid of their chickens altogether, but not mine. The next day, my dad expected me to follow him out to the coop to help with chores like every other day. For the first week, I hid behind him. Because my father paid no attention to this behavior, I soon forgot my fear, and before long I was spending more time playing with chickens again than with kids my own age.
Today, many locals know me as the “chicken lady.” I love nothing more than to introduce young children to farm animals and bring chickens into elementary schools.
The moral of the story? Terrible things have happened to all of us, probably a thousand times worse than getting attacked by a silly bird. For some of us, our own personal “Plymouth Rock rooster” might take the form of abuse we suffered as a child or the death of a loved one. Instead of letting these things break us and emotionally scar us, sometimes the opposite can occur. Sometimes we can use these experiences like a tough workout to build resilience.
What if we harness that pain and use it to better understand what we went through, or better yet, help others? Today, I challenge you to take that one incident, whatever it may be, and channel it toward the greater good. Happy chickening, everybody. . .
Laura Field is a writer who grew up on a small farm in Cheshire, Massachusetts. She works at Hancock Shaker Village, where she is a farm educator, animal handler and oxen trainer. Over the years, her comical encounters with the farm critters in her life have led to a growing fascination with the animals, she someday hopes to open her own educational farm.