There's a special transaction happening across this chain link fence that separates Potts Park from our backyard. The kids in the park have discovered our chickens. Maybe they heard the plaintive call of our duck, and came over to take a look. Though the park has some nice play equipment, a sandbox, ballcourt and a couple picnic tables, one parent told me the main attraction is now our four chickens.
I like to think that the chickens are teaching the kids to regard their surroundings with a keen eye, because a chicken is constantly scrutinizing the ground and plants around it, scratching the earth to see what's there. Are farms, gardens and chickens a gateway into the natural world? Follow an environmentalist's genealogy back a generation or two and you'll often find a farm.
Our chickens and duck have the run of the place all day, returning dutifully to the coop at dusk. I put some feed out, but mostly they forage for themselves, and so in a sense occupy a spot along the continuum between tame and wild. Such animals can serve as intermediaries, ambassadors, allowing a connection to that living world beyond neat yards and indoor pets, a bridge to the wild that the heart can traverse.