My oldest daughter attends a preschool on a farm and for awhile we were having a problem: she’d scream in the morning, begging not to go, because she was afraid of the chickens. She could handle the goats, pig, bunnies, dogs, hamsters, and fish, but the chickens spooked her with their “pointy mouths” and pushy ways. We talked to her teacher, who made it clear that Robin always has the choice to stay away from the chickens, but this didn’t seem to help. We talked to my Dad, who grew up on a farm and “didn’t like chickens much, either” (he wrote to her in a letter), but he said his solution had been to simply make up his mind to not be scared.
It’s reasonable to be scared of chickens when you’re 4 feet tall and they come at your knees, thinking you’re about to feed them. And I’ve been to the farm: they are pushy fuckers! So I was really wracking my brain to find a way to make Robin less fearful, and hopefully get to a point where being around them wouldn’t freak her out.
One day we were in the car talking about our brains (like ya do) and I pulled up to the farm. I said, “Robin, look at my head. See how big it is?” She agreed that for sure, I have a big head. “People’s heads are big, so our brains are big, and that’s part of what makes us smart and special. Our brains are big so we can talk and create and figure out solutions to problems. If our brains were smaller, we wouldn’t be able to do that.”
She nodded sagely, because this makes imminent sense. “Look at the chickens, Robin.” We looked at the flock strutting across the astroturf play area, towards the busy driveway. “Look at their heads.”
“Their heads are really small,” she observed.
“You know what that means?”
“It means chickens are dumb, Robin. Chickens are really, really dumb.”
Her eyes lit up. She got out of the car. She walked inside without trepidation. When I picked her up, she said she wasn’t afraid anymore. “Chicken brains are tiny, Mom. They’re not scary. Just dumb.”