Just Grazing

Chickens rule the roost

Chickens get highChickens are more like people than you think.

We’ve been raising them for a few years.  In the beginning, we often used our spare time to simply watch them socialize, eat, forage, lay eggs and roost. Now that we have little spare time, our interaction with them is more limited, but we know them well.

Keeping chickens seems all the rage nowadays.  Williams-Sonoma, the company whose gourmet cookware and home furnishings are the cat’s meow for kitchenistas, now sells chicken coops. A bit pricey at $1,495.00. We’ll wait until they’re on clearance. And they pale in comparison to the ones our friends Bill and Kelly built for Kay’s and Ann’s flocks.

Laying hens can be wily. Don’t be surprised if you’re trying to get one out of your barn and she begins to play a barnyard version of the kids’ game “tag.” We have watched with amusement as a hen stands on one side of a wheelbarrow looking directly at us, waiting for our first move, and then dashing around the wheelbarrow when we chase her. We stop. She stops.

Sometimes there are squabbles in the flock. Who knows what starts them, but they usually don’t last long, settled with a few well placed pecks.

Just as in life, there are bullies in the chicken yard. They can be especially tough on hens that have become weak or injured, often attacking them so frequently that we have to remove the weak one until she is strong enough to hold her own.

Victim of bully

This hen was beaten up by a bully hen.

Like those people who drive to work every day and hope to get the same parking spot, hens stake out a favorite spot on the roosting poles in the chicken coop at night. Sometimes this causes disputes, as it might if you parked in someone’s spot. So far we haven’t seen any coop rage incidents. Just a lot of squawking. And there are two hens who insist on roosting on a swing they created out of their PVC pipe nipple drinker.

If you think cliques only happen at school or work, you’re wrong. Chickens form cliques. We’ve seen small groups of hens sticking together and avoiding other groups.

Then there are the wanderlust few who escape the chicken yard and explore. They are the brave and bold ones who fly up onto the tractor, walk beneath the horses, explore a pickup truck’s engine when the hood is left up, and dare the cat to come near them.

They are the ones who leave an egg in unusual places because when the urge strikes, they lay.

Egg in horse feeder

Egg in horse feeder

Chickens are much smarter than you might think. As reported in The New York Times, a team of Italian researchers recently reported that “newborn chicks, like humans, appear to map numbers spatially….”



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