It had taken me all of three years to train my
Labrador not to retrieve the fowl oven ready.
And today, for the first time, the Smácht had
paid off. In a clump of heather, beneath a
sheer cliff face in the Burren, he displayed
textbook behaviour. His tail arched and
pointed to the sky alerting me to the
location of our prey. With his eyes, he
mesmerised the bird into a state of total
immobilisation like a rabbit blinded in the
glare of a headlight. All he needed was the
command from me, and the bird was as
good as in the bag.
Potter could be forgiven for not knowing it
was mid Spring, and that my gun was safely
ensconced at home in it’s security case
obediently awaiting the opening of the
shooting season in September. He was
singularly unimpressed when I gently
ushered him aside and stooped to see what
he’d discovered. There, amidst the fronds of
heather was a magnificent bird of prey. It
peered out at us with beautiful but scarified
eyes of amber yellow. One of it’s wings
hung limply by its side. Clearly, it had fallen
from one of the cliffs overhead and had been
abandoned by its mother.
Instinctively I thought of Ronan Byrne, the
Friendly Farmer. No one in Ireland knows
more about birds and their well being. I
resolved to bring the bird to Ronan at once.
‘It’s an eagle chick and it’s in bad shape. The
best that we can do with it now is put it in
with the other chickens and let nature take
its course’ said Ronan emphatically.
And that’s precisely what happened. We
christened the eagle chick Iolar and over the
proceeding weeks and months she
flourished. She got on like the proverbial
house on fire with the other hens and
chickens. In time she learned to peck like a
chicken, scratch like a chicken, strut like a
chicken. She even succeeded in clucking
and cackling like a chicken when one of the
others laid an egg.
And then one day, a large shadow appeared
over the chicken farm in Athenry. Iolar and
the other chickens paused momentarily from
scratching and looked up to see a majestic
bird glide over the farm.
‘What’s that’ said Iolar in awe.
‘That’s an eagle’ said one of the elder and
‘Wow. I’d give anything to fly and soar like
that’ said Iolar.
‘You can’t’ said another older and wiser
‘You’re a chicken, and chickens can’t fly.
That there is the king of all birds. Now
put your head down lest the eagle see you
and take you away.’
Iolar dutifully began to scratch the ground
again but couldn’t take her mind of the
spectacular specimen she had just seen.
Some days after, the big eagle happened to
be cruising the vicinity of the farm again, and
with the aid of his ‘eagle eye’ he was stunned
to see what he perceived to be the prettiest
eagle he’d ever seen – hanging out with a bunch
of chickens. He surged earthwards with such
velocity that the chickens scarcely had time
to make the safety of the chicken coop.
Alas, not Iolar. She was so enthralled by the
power and splendour of the eagle that she
stood transfixed and rooted to the ground.
‘What are you doing here?’ asked the big
eagle curiously but gently.
‘What are you getting at?’ replied Iolar
with false bravado.
‘What are you doing hanging out with a
bunch of chickens?’
‘I am a chicken. They are my friends. They
are my family. They took me in when I was
abandoned by my mother. They’ve taught
me everything I know.’ said Iolar defiantly.
‘You’re not a chicken. You’re an eagle. You’re
the king of all birds. From Caesar to Hitler
you are revered as the ultimate symbol of
power. You belong in the sky, not in the dirt.’
‘Nonsense’ shrieked Iolar. ‘I’m no eagle. I
can’t even fly.’
‘You can’t fly because you’ve never tried, and
you’ve never been coached by someone who
can. Come with me to the cliff at the edge of
the farm and I’ll teach you to fly like an eagle.’
From the recesses of the chicken coop Iolar
heard a rising cacophony of chicken speak
from the other chickens.
‘Don’t listen to him’ chorused the frenetic
chickens. ‘He’s a lier, a spoofer and a womaniser.
If you go with him you’ll never come back. If you
jump from that cliff you’ll surely die. Stay with us
here where everything is cosy and safe.’
Iolar looked back at her adopted family and friends
and tears welled up in her eyes of amber gold.
She thought of all the great times she had
scratching in the dirt and scurrying away from
Ronan when he tried to tuck them in at night
safe from the fox.
But deep within her spirit was a haunting calling.
A calling to be more. To do more. To have more.
To fly – who knows, even to soar.
She bravely gave the other chickens the wings
up and followed the older eagle out of the
farmyard and up to the cliff.
At the cliff summit, the old eagle caringly put
it’s wing around Iolars graceful shoulders and
pointed out all the wonders of an eagles world.
To the north was Croagh Patrick and the Twelve
Pins and to the south were the majestic peaks of
the Magillicuddy Reeks. Iolar felt an intense
stirring in her loins.
Just then the old eagle jumped – and effortlessly
glided on a series of invisible thermals that
powerfully supported his body. Iolar marvelled
at such unadulterated freedom and dominion
over all it purveyed and dearly wished to do likewise.
She looked down however, and all she saw were
the sharp and treacherous rocks hundreds of feet
below. She heard once again, the clarion cry of the
other chickens squawking ‘if you jump from that
cliff you’ll surely die.’
‘Look to the sun, throw your heart over the cliff and
let me guide you every flap of the way’ said the old
And she did. And as she soared into the heavens
her triumphant cry reverberated joyously around
the walls of the chicken coop in Athenry.
* * * * * * *
Beliefs are to your mind what software is to your
computer. They are the programmes that
condition and predicate your entire destiny.
And your beliefs are fashioned and fossilised
in the ‘chicken yards’ of your life.
If you ever believed that you’re not old enough,
smart enough, good looking enough – then it’s
quite likely you’ve been got at by ‘chicken yard
It’s a fascinating fact of life that genetically we
are born to win but quickly become programmed
to lose – in the ‘chicken yards of life.’
The only thing is, as Zig Ziglar reminded us, you’ll
never soar with the eagles if you continue to
scratch with the chickens. It’s your choice.