The Healing Power of Chicken

September 14, 2016



I posted this shot on Facebook a few days ago of a chicken and it went down rather well. I was lying in an orchard and she hopped onto my leg for an afternoon snooze. So I thought I would write a piece giving you all a little context as to why this was such a special moment for me.

I need to take you back to the 1980s. I was the odd kid at primary school. Looking back I can see why, as many people probably still see me as rather odd, although I don’t feel an outsider anymore. I have found that when the ‘odd’ people get together we are actually all completely normal!

Elsa the Chicken

Anyway, to get back to the point of chickens, when I was a child my best friend was called Elsa, and she was a chicken. I didn’t have a whole lot of human friends, but I could always rely on my chickens to keep me company, and Elsa was, how do I say this… not entirely normal herself. She was kind of oblong, and had a tiny comb, and she was so extremely friendly. She would let me play with her for hours on end. She was one of those chickens you see on TV sometimes, or read about in magazines which ride bikes, goes on a go-kart and the like. I even used to push her around my village in a pram. Who needs dolls when you have a real live chicken!


Elsa and me enjoying life in the fast lane  

I used to get home from school and run around the orchard looking for her, perhaps to catch up on sharing our individual days antics.



… and in the pram

I even took her to school once, for pet day. She pooed down my skirt in front of the whole school and I had to wear my PE kit for the rest of the day. I imagine it was all a bit embarrassing for both of us, although I can’t quite remember the exact emotions that were conjured up.

So, I have always had a really close connection with chickens. Elsa was a key player in my awakening on the shamanic path. See when I had a power retrieval in my early thirties, she was the guide who came to me to help me recover my lost power. Of all my guides, this clever little chicken came forward and helped me track them down in the Upper World.

It was that experience that led me to finding out what shamanism was, and ultimately training in and becoming a shamanic practitioner.

Chicken Whisperer

So when I was on my recent Embodied Relational Therapy diploma weekend, one of the two chickens there came to perch on my leg. It took me right back to remembering that I am being looked after, even now. I always try to make friends with resident chickens wherever I go. I seek them out and see if they want cuddles (which usually they don’t), or a piece of bread or cheese (which always they do). This time it paid of, and I felt like a true chicken whisperer.

I bet loads of you have tales to tell about how special pets in your life have helped you on your journey. I know I do, but I will just share the chicken one for now.

…. and one last thing, I named Elsa after the film ‘Born Free’, about the orphan lioness cub who was hand reared and then released back out into the African savanna. The synchronicity hasn’t passed me by.

Here are some more chicken whispering photos to make you smile!



Elsa on the bike



Elsa and me at hay time



More recently… Mildred our most recent chicken and me, the day we tried to rehome her as she was on her own with us and we (wrongly) thought she would be better off living with other chickens. She lasted 48 hours and was then back with us!


Mildred looking her very best  at Easter Sunday this year


Mildred ‘helping’ me make drums


Mildred joining in on one of our The Way of the Buzzard meetings

About the Author


Nicola Smalley is an edge-dweller, shamanic practitioner and writer living in Anglezarke on the edge of the West Pennine Moors in Lancashire, England.
Following a career in corporate sustainability, she now runs The Way of the Buzzard with her husband Jason. Her passion is anything connected to nature and the mysteries of the Earth.

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  1. This is lovely. My mother in law keeps chickens and talks regularly to them. They are therapeutic and have wonderful personalities if you take the time to look beyond the egg production bit.

    1. They are great company, and yes such personalities! When I was being made redundant from my job in my mid thirties and feeling rejected I used to go out into the woods and sit with my two chickens Sage and Onion then. They used to jump on my lap and sit down for a while. It’s so uplifting when a chicken decides to sit on you! I coined the phrase ‘chicken therapy’ – recon there is real mileage in that as a healing therapy!

  2. Hi Nicola,
    I always enjoy your posts, but really loved this one! I have been wanting chickens since I was young, and still not managed it yet. I love interacting with the chickens whenever I go to Middlewood! This has made me more determined! Thank you and best wishes to you and Jason. Laurie x

    1. Aren’t the chickens at Middlewood great – and very handsome too. I loved interacting with them all – especially watching all the cockerel politics. Pleased to be of some inspiration! Happy chicken keeping 🙂 x

  3. A wonderful account. When we were very young my sister and me visited a chicken regularly. She lived at the back of a pub in the village and would happily sit on our laps being fed her favourite food – ice cream.

    1. Oh, chickens are the best when they are really friendly and like cuddles! I love your story… I never tried feeding a chicken ice cream – one to try next time I am near a chicken and also have ice cream close by!! 🙂

  4. Nicola … I love this post. I believe your first photo to be of Thelma here at Unstone Grange. She’s a lovely hen. I’ve been hanging out with her and Louise today … they always seem so impressed when I’m using the hay rake…it’s like the biggest chicken foot in the world!

    Zoe x

    1. Ah yes Thelma, I had been formally introduced earlier this summer – she is the chicken who helps out all the other chickens as she is older and wiser, so I was told. Thank you for reminding me of her name. I had nick-named her Mrs Beaky! That’s brilliant that you recognised her!! Yes I can imagine them being impressed with the hay rake!! xx

  5. I never gave chickens much thought, I preferred the cute white rabbits my dad bred to feed the family. I was scared of going to get the eggs in the chicken’s compound when I was little because of the cockril being so scary and aggressive!! I used to chase them to help my dad to make them into food, I remember feeling very sorry when they couldn’t be bothered running and just stopped positioning their wings ready to be picked up. Very recently an auntie of mine told me that she used to get close to some of her chickens and felt they were cute and cuddly, then dismissed her feelings towards the chicken and classed it as ridiculous. If she only knew the significance of it all. I loved reading your blog. It’s great that you have pictures to remind you of the special relationship you always haf with chickens!!
    P.S. Middlewood chickens are indeed very handsome!!

    1. Great to read your experiences too Enza. Ah yes, the chicken tap dance – I know it well and it makes me laugh. We didn’t have a cockerel so our chickens (and me) were left in peace – unlike those poor chickens at Middlewood who get pestered by the cockerels in the spring like nothing else!
      I am so pleased you enjoyed my blog 🙂 thank you for sharing too 🙂

  6. Chickens are really beautiful birds. Anyone who has kept them will understand that they all have their own personalities and “voices”. It hurts me so much to see how they are sometimes treated. These lovely pictures are uplifting!

  7. IT will make you laugh to know that as I write this, my two chickens are pecking on my kitchen window very intently! My daughter, who is ten, has a close bond with these two. One looks uncannily like Mildred. Also, I loved the story of Born Free as a child. My favourite childhood toy was a stuffed leopard I called Elsa. And I just found the book and started reading it to my girls.

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