There was once a chicken coop, which by itself isn’t entirely remarkable given the sheer scope of the poultry industry. For the sake of this story, however, let us suspend the entirely unremarkable nature of there being a chicken coop at all, and instead focus for the sake of this tale on this particular coop.
The chickens followed normal tradition and more or less decided which chicken was the best suited amongst them to be their leader. That bird would lead them out of the coop and into the yard in the morning, and then back into the coop at the end of the day. Truly, they were leading a rather simple and care free life in the coop.
One particularly unremarkable day (and truly, most every day in a chicken’s life is unremarkable) an eagle swooped down and landed amongst the chickens in the yard. Due to the established interpersonal relationship between predators like eagles and prey like chickens, this did not go at all unnoticed by the flock. After several moments of panicked squawks and running about, the chickens one by one began to realize that the eagle was not making any attempts to catch them. Instead, he was standing where he was, as though he were waiting for everyone to calm down. The chickens did finally calm down, and started to gather around this eagle.
“PREDATORS!” the eagle started, quite loudly.
The word caused the flock to panic again, which is understandable given the peculiarity of the moment. They once again calmed themselves, and allowed the eagle to continue with his statement.
“Predators,” he repeated a bit less loudly this time, so as to not repeat the previous error, “are everywhere. Predators are near as you eat in the yard, and are near as you sleep at night, confined in your coops. These confines allow those four-legged predators to raid the coop at night, eating your loved ones.”
The chickens became alarmed by what the eagle was saying. Granted, it had been quite a long time since the last predator invaded the coop. Chickens aren’t particularly known for their long term memory, but everyone who was there remembered that night.
“What I propose,” continued the eagle, “is that you allow me to be your leader. I will protect you so that you never feel sharp teeth around your neck again. I will take steps to help you defend yourselves from them!”
This seemed like a tremendous opportunity for the chickens, as who better could protect them from the predators than another predator? He surely knew how they think, and that knowledge could be applied to help them thrive.
So, the chickens agreed to let the eagle be their leader.
The eagle left the chicken who had previously been leader in charge of day-to-day chicken operations, which as outlined before mostly consisted of leading the flock in and out of the coop. The eagle, he said, was more of a big picture kind of leader. A real high thinker.
One day, as the chickens were returning from the yard after a routine day of scratching and pecking, they noticed that the roof had been removed from the coop. This was met with some concerned clucking amongst the hens, but the eagle assured them that this was the right choice.
“In order for me to better protect you, I must be able to see into the coop to make sure that no predators are in there. Also, as you are birds like I am, you can fly out of the coop at the first sign of danger!”
This made sense to the chickens, and though none of them gave thought to how high any of them could actually fly, they agreed to the change.
The next morning, the chickens awoke to the terror of eagles swooping into the coop, and carrying many of them away.
After the terrible event, the eagle who had been leading them was nowhere to be seen. It became apparent that the eagle had deceived them, and the chickens felt embarrassed for it. Having no roof had actually helped the eagles, and the fact that chickens were birds and were able to fly did not protect them from the attack.
The remaining flock gathered outside of the coop to assess their ranks. Nobody wanted to return to the coop ever again due to its obvious safety concerns. While they clucked amongst themselves, a voice began speaking from within the bushes nearby.
“I saw what the eagles did to you this morning, and it was terrible. I’m very sorry for your loss, but I believe that I can help you.”
This unexpected voice sent the chickens into a panic, causing them to again squawk loudly and run around the yard. When a wolf stepped out from the bushes, it only agitated the chickens more. They were already on edge, and this, quite frankly, made things worse.
The wolf sat there quietly as this happened around him. The chickens took a bit longer to calm down this time, but they noticed that the wolf was not trying to devour them and, eventually, calmed down to see what the wolf had to say.
“The eagle betrayed you! He convinced you to remove the roof so that his eagle friends could come in and attack you, scattering you about so that you could not protect yourselves as a group. I ask that you let me be your leader. I can protect you from the eagles and show you how to function as a pack. In a pack, you can protect yourselves from even the largest predator.”
The chickens had been deceived before, so they weren’t as willing to be led by another predator. However, the wolf was not an eagle, and they felt that perhaps by learning how to function in a pack (without realizing that they had up to that moment been functioning similarly as a flock), they might be able to protect themselves from the eagles.
The chickens agreed to allow the wolf to be their leader.
He left the previously-appointed chicken in charge of day-to-day operations of the flock. Though the chickens did not feel safe in the coop, the wolf encouraged them to sleep in there anyway, as a pack protects itself by being together. The chickens agreed that it was a good idea to do this, so they went back in for the night.
That night, while the chickens slept, a pack of wolves sneaked into the coop, blocked the exits, and devoured the remaining chickens. They were unable to either leave through the blocked exits or fly out of the exposed roof. Chickens are not high flyers.
Sadly, the chickens lacked the insight to know that it is never a good idea to let a predator lead them. Predators will act in their own self-interests, because they are what they are, and cannot be anything else other than what they are. Had they continued to let the best of the chickens lead them all, things would have gone very differently.
But they didn’t. And so here we are.