Kingswood Chickens and Wings of Refuge
By: Sandy Andrews, Program Director
Chickens! What was the first thing campers saw when arriving at Kingswood in 2020? Chickens! What a happy sight after months of sheltering in place due to the pandemic. The story behind Kingswood’s newest addition is three-pronged with:
- roots in the history of the Kingswood site,
- the faith traditions from which the United Methodist Church evolved, and
- my own personal heritage and upbringing.
- Kingswood was once a farm and most likely had chickens.
- Kingswood Family Camp, which welcomes all, is part of the United Methodist Church. The UMC believes that ‘the Bible is the primary authority for our faith and practice’ (https://www.umc.org/en/content/our-christian-roots-the-bible). The Bible was written in an agrarian society and likens God to a mother hen gathering her chicks under her wings.
- This being my first year as Program Director, I brought what I knew. I grew up on a farm, and in recent years, having returned to my roots, have been tending a garden and a large raspberry patch. Ducks and chickens have become my garden helpers.
With this in mind, bringing a bit of farm life back to Kingswood seemed only natural. We built and installed a sturdy predator-resistant coop near the parking lot. The addition of deterrents, including electric fencing and blinking laser lights, seemed to keep predators away. From opening day on June 26 to the last day on September 7, my 10 hens were the first to greet campers as they arrived and the last to bid them farewell as they departed. Everyone from toddlers to seniors was excited to meet the Kingswood hens. Campers got to participate in morning and evening chores, letting them out in the morning, feeding and replenishing water for them, and (maybe best of all!) gathering eggs to take back to their sites for breakfast. If a camper was there on the right day, the attached mini garden offered up summer squash or peppery nasturtiums. It was fun watching the hens jump up to peck at a dangling apple and chase after the re-purposed gum container that held their treat of chicken scratch. They learned to kick the container around and peck at the drilled holes to get morsels of cracked corn, oats, and other grain seeds. Campers enjoyed holding the hens and discovering how soft they were. Little Dominique was the most accommodating volunteer for this task.
While the campers learned some interesting facts about chickens, I was surprised to learn how many of our visitors had their own chickens, even in their suburban backyards, or had experienced chickens in other settings, such as the brothers who recounted visiting their grandfather who had chickens – in the Philippines. I was touched by the teen who cooked eggs for his girlfriend the next day from eggs they hand-picked from the nest box. I appreciated my helpers for the week, who faithfully showed up to assist with chores. Even the extra precautions needed to make Kingswood safe for all seeking a respite from the pandemic brought a bit of fun – people enjoyed using the battery-operated sprayer to wash their hands.
I hope that all of the 2020 campers felt the figurative open arms of Kingswood welcoming them as they sought refuge, respite, and relaxation from society’s turmoil. May the memories of visiting the Kingswood hens remind you of the image of a protective mother hen gathering her young under her wings, keeping them safe and secure. And if you were not at Kingswood this past summer, I invite you to come next summer, as the hens and quiet refuge of Kingswood will be there again.