One day, like every day, I was hurrying to cook dinner.  My then four-year-old daughter skipped in from outside and announced, “Fence likes to hide in the white cabinet.”  You need to know that Fence is the name of her favorite chicken (the reason for the name is another story).  I responded the way I always do when I’m distracted on the franch and not really listening to my children, “Wow, that’s interesting.”  I began to chop the cucumbers for the salad and requested that she set the table.   Once finished with her chore, ten minutes later, she immediately asked to be excused to go back to playing her game.  “What game are you playing?” I asked finally giving her my full attention.  She explained matter-of-factly that it’s a game of hide-n-seek and the chicken had chosen a good place to hide.  Her earlier words started to make sense.  “Show me!”  She led me out to the garage and opened the white cabinet with all the sporting equipment.  Hilarious!  Fence was indeed inside and seemed very relieved to be found.  I don’t know why that surprised me as much as it did.  Our children have developed very strong and meaningful relationships with their farm animals.  Life on the franch is quite busy, so sometimes scheduling time with the children’s human friends gets postponed.  When that happens, it makes me feel better knowing there are some real benefits of having friendships with farm animals.  I will only name a few.  First, it warms a mother’s heart so see how happy the animals are to see the children.  All the animals come running when our children head out to the barn (even when it isn’t around feeding time).  Secondly, farm friends have a positive influence on the self-esteem of our children.  Our children do not feel judged by the animals in any way for who they are or the way they look.  Third, I don’t have to worry about my children running with the wrong crowd or negative peer pressure.  Even though there is a chicken posse on our franch, the worst they do is trespass in the garden and ruin plants with their aggressive pecking and scratching feet.  Our children usually do not play games of “copy me” where the animals choose the action to be imitated.  So, they learn to be confident in their choice to not always do what their friends are doing.  A fourth benefit is that our children almost daily hone their shepherding skills.  Our children are always in the lead of any sort of follow-the-leader game with the sheep and goats.  Our children also get a lot of exercise chasing the chickens who’d rather play a game of “you-can’t-catch-me” instead of going into the coop on their own in the evenings.  Yet another benefit of farm friendships is that the silly antics of farm friends are always making them laugh.  And lastly, a game of hide-n-seek never ends in tears as the farm friend is always easily found.

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