Fowl Play: Don’t Steal My Chickens


When my husband and I bought our house, it came with typical yard stuff: grass, flowers, trees, zillions of weeds, basketball hoop. And it came with not-so-typical yard stuff: hot tub, raised garden beds, heated shed (previously used for growing marijuana), creepy gnomes in random places… and chickens.

Or so we thought. Upon heading out to feed our chickens for the first time, the chickens had flown the coop! I discovered an empty henhouse and a wide-open back gate! Someone STOLE OUR CHICKENS! (Who does that!?)

As the weeks went by, we became acquainted with some neighbors. One lady—we’ll call her Chicken Lady—talked incessantly about our long lost chickens: They were mean. They weren’t good for kids. You should get chicks. Your girls would love chicks. I’ll get you chicks. You get the equipment and I’ll get the chicks. Do you have a heat lamp yet? Because I have some chicks. New chickens. Better chickens. Nicer chickens. I figured chicks were better for you so I TOOK YOUR HENS and GAVE THEM TO A FARM.



In all fairness to her, she was trying to be nice, to do a good deed, to welcome us to the neighborhood. She so earnestly wanted us to have good chickens.

Yet—and this may come as a shock—I wasn’t super receptive to her methods. I don’t think trespassing is nice. I don’t think stealing is a good deed. I don’t think forcefully taking charge of my poultry decisions is welcoming!

The more she tried to “help,” the less receptive I was. She was so focused on herself and her agenda, that my thoughts, needs, and wishes didn’t matter at all.

When you accommodate a person’s communication style and needs, receptivity increases. When you respect people’s boundaries (literal fences and gates are a good example, ahem), they gradually stretch those boundaries for you. Boundaries are disclosed nonverbally. When you demonstrate understanding and respect for them, others feel safe, open up, and invite you in.

But step on toes, ignore the “rules,” overstep boundaries … and receptivity instantly and dramatically drops.

Unsolicited advice rarely works. Shaming people for their beliefs often turns them against you. Trying to help people who don’t want help leads to resentment on both sides. Stealing your neighbor’s property because you think they deserve better pisses them off. And so on.

(For the record, we loved the chickens for the few years we had them. They were like pets to my two daughters. And nothing beats fresh eggs from your own hens that run free in your backyard… and poop on your deck. But it still makes my brain explode when I remember the stealing and subsequent foisting upon of hens…)

If you want to improve your communication and your receptivity with others, meet them where they are. Notice and accommodate their communication needs and style, instead of expecting them to accommodate you. Pay attention to boundaries and be respectful. Listen. Seek to understand. Make them comfortable. Be a safe presence. And… don’t steal their chickens!


Change your communication, change your life.