chooks353

My mum's chooks.

When did you last spend quality time with a chicken?

I don't mean a roast chicken or crumbed nuggets or even an afternoon watching Foghorn Leghorn cartoons, smoking happy cigarettes. I refer instead to a clucking, unplucked, living chook.

If you're like most urban dwellers, it's probably been a while since you ran your fingers through some feathers because it's tough work billeting a chicken in a two-bedroom flat with no car space, let alone room for a coop.

This is a shame because I reckon if we all had chooks, there'd be a little less aggression in the world, a little less sadness and an understanding of the circle of life beyond Lion King songs.

Any kid who grows up on a farm or in the bush knows this cycle: from egg to chick to hen to the dinner table to the soup pot to the scraps bin, back to the chicken coop - and it teaches most a respect for the realities of food production and a distaste for waste.

However, not all chickens end up in an oven; some live out their lives pecking peacefully at the dirt, pooping where they will and nattering to owners like my mum.

My mother's going through a tough time, nursing my beloved stepfather through the final stages of terminal cancer, but I know she manages to derive moments of joy from her five ISA Brown chooks.

"They're very calming," she says, "I don't know what it is, but you just have to sit and watch them for a while and it relaxes you."

My grandfather speculated this was because chooks are so stupid and, while observing their spasmodic idiocy does make you feel wondrously intelligent, I don't believe chooks are dumb.

Geniuses they are not, but they still have something approaching intellect because they can spend days watching you come and go from their enclosure, hatching an escape plan like captured RAF flyers imprisoned at Colditz.

Then one day you'll drop your guard and find them on the roof of your house, looking very pleased with themselves and you're the idiot, slipping on roof tiles, yelling foulness at a fowl.

There are many other great points about chickens including the fact they follow you around once they get to know you, children absolutely love them, and it feels good knowing your chooks will never be mistreated like so many are.

However, perhaps their greatest gift is how they keep you in the moment.

When you watch a chicken you see a creature totally unconcerned with the past or the future, simply the worm you've unearthed for them while digging a veggie bed in the backyard.

By attuning yourself to the chicken, you empty your mind of the clutter of what has been and what will come.

I know people with dogs and cats who feel the same way; their pets simplify and lighten life by nuzzling them or going ape-shit when they turn on the vacuum cleaner.

For my money, however, chickens are one step ahead because, as well as depositing glistening poop for you to clean up, they also leave you beautiful, fresh eggs for breakfast.

And lest you need more convincing, stop to think of the dozens of chicken sayings - from "counting your chickens", to the old "chicken and egg" story, to "rooster one day, feather duster the next".

Chickens have always had a profound effect on humans and have been at the epicentre of life's teachings for thousands of years, which is why I strongly recommend you spend some time with one next time you get a chance.

Just relax, let the chicken drive the conversation but don't get too attached.

The oven awaits.

Sam de Brito's latest novel Hello Darkness is in bookstores now. You can follow him on Twitter here.