It isnʼt your ordinary bevy of barnyard fowl.
Ora G. Bell isnʼt your ordinary barnyard doyenne.
She believes that raising children, and livestock, on the basis of mutual respect and trust is part of the natural order, as is encouraging their appreciation of the finer things in life.
Thus, as her children, Tanya and Pancol, fill the waterers and feeders for the ducklings, goslings and baby chicks, she reads to the humans and animals passages from Aeschylusʼs “Agamemnon” as part of her daily lesson on the virtues of gentleness and nonviolence.
“Blood of man once spilled,
once at his feet shed forth,
and darkening the plain,
nor chant nor charm
can call it back again.”
Ora has seen the physical and emotional distress the pecking order can bring, the bare patches of bleeding skin on the lower-ranking members of a flock who have literally been “henpecked,” and she in word and deed encourages her charges to rise above this primitive practice.
“Surround yourself with beauty, and beauty will surround you,” she tells the children, explaining that the violent tendencies of the birds will be overcome if they are raised in elegant surroundings and exposed to aesthetic perfection and heartfelt love.
The dishes from which the animals eat and drink are made of beautifully engraved sterling silver. Their barn has been adorned with red velvet curtains and original artwork portraying restful country scenes.
Loudspeakers in the barn softly play works by such composers as Handel, Chopin and Vivaldi, as well as gospel songs and gentle jazz.
Later that afternoon, after chores are done and the birds have eaten their fill, the children and animals perch on hay bales while Ora reads to them from a novel she cherishes, Tolstoyʼs “Anna Karenina.”
She thought the young ones would appreciate the passage where Levin, a gentleman, tries his hand at mowing hay with a scythe along with the peasants, an example of the mutual respect and cooperative spirit that Ora is seeking to instill.
As the days pass, and the chicksʼ down is replaced with sturdy feathers, they seem to absorb the soothing influence of their mistress. If a duck and a goose meet in the yard, they nod politely to each other and go on their way. The young hens are very pleasant to each other and the occasional instinctual peck is quickly followed by an abashed apology.
And unlike what happens in other flocks, the birds never peck each otherʼs eggs, showing respect for the offspring of the other moms.
The harmony certainly aids egg production. Once the birds begin producing, they more than earn their keep by proudly filling the nesting boxes with beautiful eggs. Ora sets some aside for hatching under heated lamps, and the rest she sells as fresh, organic eggs at premium prices.
The birds are happy to do their part. They appreciate the kindness of their humans and the excellent conditions under which they are kept.
They wish all chickens could be so lucky.