Chickens & Eighth Grade Girls- Confessions from the Bottom of the Pecking Order

(Published in Edible Berkshires Magazine-December 2014)

Everyone has their own unique place or environment where the best version of themselves suddenly shines through. As a kid, mine was always the farm. By six years old, I could stand up to an ornery goat without getting charged. At eight years old I could take a blow from the spurs of the meanest rooster and cuddle the aggression out of him. At the farm, I felt like the Steve Erwin of goats and chickens: able to handle anything. At the farm, I felt like me.IMG_1795

Unfortunately this feeling had a way of fizzling out the second I walked through the doors of my eighth grade. That specific year, a group of girls in my class decided that I would be the one they chose to bully. In school it didn’t matter how comfortable I was staring down an aggressive goat because in the face of a mean 13 year old girl, I cowered like a chicken at the bottom of the pecking order.

The meanest of roosters has nothing on the viciousness of eighth grade girls.

It began halfway through September. Brittany Johnson was the ring leader and I rarely spotted her without a group of girls hovering around her. On the bus she would snicker to her friends about me, calling me weird, stupid, and most commonly “dumb-blonde.” These comments traveled to the classroom where the rest of the girls soon joined in. In gym class, they began arguing over which team would be stuck with me. On the way to school, my closest friends no longer sat near me. The hurt I felt, stung more than any chicken scratch I had ever experienced in the coop. All I wanted was for my friends to tell me what I had done wrong and to like me again. Soon that would change.IMG_1818

When April rolled around, the end-of-the-year awards, designed by the students, for the students, were given out. These awards were presented at a special ceremony in the cafeteria in front of all the middle school grades. When it came time for my name to be announced, out of the corner of my eye, I could see Brittany Johnson and the other girls snicker. A voice over the microphone said, “The Blond Award goes to Laura Field.” My face turned hot. The teachers had no idea the negative connotation meant behind this award, or who had given it. I and the other classmates knew. I blinked back tears and forced myself to walk up in front of everyone to receive my certificate.

As I stood there, my eyes passed over Brittany and the other girls, clustered at their table like a flock of hens. Was it the angle I was standing? In that moment I couldn’t tell one girl apart from the other. Then the thought occurred to me. Even if I was stupid, or weird, or a dumb blond, at least I wasn’t like them.

Chickens are a lot like eighth grade girls. A group of hens will bully the one they sense is a little different from the rest. When one hen initiates the pecking, the rest join in. A pecked hen rarely regains her place in the flock, but why would she want to? Like chickens, we are social creatures. Our instinct is to form groups. For me, that instinct fizzled out on that April day and. Truth be told, it has never returned. Some chickens, I’ve come to learn, are better off on their own.

Happy Chickening Everyone.


3 thoughts on “Chickens & Eighth Grade Girls- Confessions from the Bottom of the Pecking Order

  1. Laura, you’re a great person! you’ve clearly risen above the cattiness of Jr. High. We attended your chicken seminar last year and loved it.You are a wealth of fantastic information and gave us the knowledge needed to start our own flock.We often reference you in our chicken-owner journey. Keep your head high and your chin up. Those years can’t define us.


  2. Laura, Don’t forget all the people who have come to care for you. You are an extraordinary teacher, you share your heart as well as your knowledge, very enjoyable.
    I was sensitive and shy in highschool, uncomfortable for the most part. I don’t mind being sensitive, I had to find a way out of uncomfortable. We are all different flavors of the same pie and i am determined to see the light. And I did. Between the service and being a vegetarian cowboy in Reno, NV and Oakdale CA, I came into my own. Accomplishment give you a right for self-esteem, it’s yours, nobody has to give it to you, it is yours. I fairly and rightly give it to you for how you extend your sensitivity and knowledge to me in these chats.
    I left my anger behind, and got into the medical field, because like you, I care about people and it makes a difference in my life.
    Even when you don’t talk about agriculture, you are a great teacher. Thank you


  3. HI Laura! its Kristin from the Co-op! What a beautiful soul you are and what a feat to put your excruciating experience into a fun and poignant perspective! You have found yourself a much more wonderful flock of sweet creatures, farmers and growers to surround yourself with! Your confused young friends really missed out on your friendship and joy of life! I enjoy reading your posts, your good cheer and humor, and of course, we all enjoy all the delicious food your farm provides! See ya soon!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s