Sunday, April 18, 2004

Fun With Chickens

While I'm thinking of it, just a few anecdotal chicken stories...


When our first three hens were 2 months old, they were moved from inside the house to the new coop in the back yard. They adapted well and loved their new surroundings.

Until early one morning we awoke to bloodcurdling, wailing cackling from the backyard. Up we leaped and in record time, visions of dying chickens in our heads, ran out into the back yard…to find that a heavy fog had descended and the chicken coop was hidden from view. Of course we realized instantly that this meant to the chickens, the reverse was true and the house was gone! We laughed and made our way to the coop and let out some very confused chickens. They made their way cautiously around the yard and we earned some dirty looks for laughing at them.

Adventures in Coop Climbing

We are spending a peaceful Saturday afternoon in the house, when suddenly we hear loud, plaintive drawn-out cackling from the yard. We dash out the back door to see who's being murdered. To our surprise, we can't locate the hen making the noise. We finally see her—on the roof (10 feet up!) of the chicken coop, yelling at us to GET...HER...DOWN...!!! She had jumped up on a half wall, from there to the top of the fence, to the top of the coop and then discovered she couldn't get down. J climbed up and rescued her and she got a lecture about hopping up on things to explore the world. She has since stayed sensibly on the ground.

New Foods

Trying to be parents to baby chicks is a weird experience at best. They catch on to normal food and water just fine, but to teach them other new foods involves a tedious lot of calling chick!-chick!-chick!, endless pointing, and repeatedly picking up and dropping the tidbit. Our baby chicks love sauerkraut (go figure!) and mealworms. In fact, we discovered (accidentally!) that the small mealworms look juuuuust like another baby chick's toe

Amid pained chick screams we were able to separate the two. My, but baby chicks hold on to food tightly!

Chickens love table scraps, and we have a lot of fun introducing them to new foods. On one occasion it was cooked spaghetti. The problem was, once the bird started to eat the noodle from one end, when they discovered that after one or two swallows, there was a huge length of noodle still to go they would start to panic. Now they are stuck, because they can't cough it back up and they haven't yet learned to bite or break it off-—the only choice is to grimly keep on swallowing. To their utter relief here comes the other end (finally!) but wait—now THAT end is flailing around and slapping them about the head and chest! Agghh! Horrors! And when they try to get away it follows them! I never knew that chickens could run in reverse.

They have since learned to break things into manageable bites...

What's That?

When our bantam hens were about 1 ½ months old, they were running around on the living room floor with the adult chickens for a surpervised meet & greet before formally joining the flock outside. We've found that this procedure helps smooth the waters.

Our bantam rooster was perched on my husband's leg as he lay on the floor watching TV. Unbeknownst to the rooster, one of our bantam babies, Yin, was approaching the rooster from the rear.

Apparently she spotted the little pink 'button' under his tail.

Now--to a chicken, everything is food until proven otherwise.

The ensuing hearty peck to that roosters' nether region made him leap straight UP with a loud, pained squawk. This startled Yin, who ran off. When the rooster came down he glared at us for laughing, then spent the next two hours trying to sneak up on Yin from behind to return the favor. A simple chase and peck on the head wouldn't do—he was out for exact revenge.

He never did catch up with her, although I don't think he ever forgot the insult.

This is the same roo that once chased me into the bathroom after I laughed at him for falling off of a box he was roosting on the edge of. I had to literally climb through the bathtub to hide behind my husband (who was shaving at the time) while the rooster made little dissapointed noises in his throat at not being able to reach me, and that just made me laugh all the harder.

I still carry a small scar on the back of my hand from when he finally caught up with me. Roosters have a very deep rooted sense of dignity, fair play and justice.

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