Thursday, September 27, 2012

In Which I Discover A Few Things About Chickens

It's getting cold in the mornings. And when we wake up it's dark - really dark - in the bedroom. I blundered into a borrowed cash box this morning, stubbing my toes and making a lot of noise. I feel safe in saying that I probably woke everyone up when my foot connected with that box. 

I've mentioned that we're new chicken owners, right? Well, there's a lot about chickens I did not know. In fact, I won't admit this to Richard but if I'd known some of these things before we actually GOT the chickens I might not have been quite so insistent that we get chickens. I might have remained an Ardent Fan From Afar. Sad but true.

Allow me to regale you with my newly discovered Chicken Facts.

They are not very bright. It pains me somewhat to say this but one of our chickens is woefully stupid. This would be Prunella. Prunella continually forgets where the door of the coop is, and each evening she spends at least three minutes trying desperately to join her sisters, who are enjoying the dish of milk and oats I've given them. She flaps and clucks despairingly at the wire, peers resentfully at her piggy sisters, then paces back and forth with increasing unease, until someone walks around and shoos her to the side with the door. She leaps into the coop and you can see the visible sigh of relief emanating off her. And before you say anything - Prunella has lived in this coop for two years. Call me judgemental but the only logical conclusion to draw from this scenario is that Prunella is a bird of limited intellect.

They are alarmingly greedy. I think they see me not as Kind Owner but as Instant Food Dispenser. Spoiled my bucolic image of myself as Urban Chick 'n' Gardener, I have to admit. Prunella, Pip, and Fern will stop whatever they are doing (including pooing) when they see me and run pell mell in my direction. In fact, I think whoever invented the word pell mell must have had chickens, because it describes their food-seeking gait perfectly.

They are not always good at recognizing danger. Yes, I admit, they know a hawk when they see one, but a ground predator could walk up to them and bash them on the head without any trouble. Yesterday Pip escaped from her spacious Chicken Yard twelve times, and six of those times she was (unbeknownst to her) stalked by the neighbour's cat. Let me back up, and explain that a bit. Initially they had the run of the entire back yard, well, until we discovered the dubious charms of chicken poo everywhere (not to mention the sudden defoliation of the white sprouting broccoli). So we fenced off an area for them to use as their own personal toilet slash play area. All three hens were unhappy about this new development, Pip most of all. Yesterday she made it her mission to escape. And was stalked by the neighbour's cat. Pip was oblivious each and every time. Now, we can admit that the neighbour's cat is either really hungry or overly convinced of its own strength, but what about Pip? Does Pip want a kitty friend or does she have a death wish? Or is she just plain dumb and wouldn't recognize Danger if it jumped on her back and wrestled her to the ground then slit her throat with its claws?

They are murder on a garden. It wasn't enough that the Prunella, Pip, and Fern had a large grassy area and a compost bin to scritch around in, no, no, no. Both Prunella and Pip felt the need to dig up my pulmonarias, echinaceas, and Lady's Mantles to make way for a dirt wallow. A sizeable dirt wallow. I made them a dirt wallow in their Chicken Yard. It was scorned. They went back to the flowers, which meant that they had also discovered a way out of their Chicken Yard. I shored up the - ahem - chicken wire fence. Pip dug, I replanted, Prunella dug, I replanted. Pip dug, I replanted. Fern watched from a distance, gauging what strength I might have left, then made a beeline for my prize pulmonaria. Turns out Fern has a liking for Prize Pulmonaria leaves. I felt like the small organic farmer fighting the big evil Monsanto Corporation (Richard thought I was being melodramatic but I happen to feel very strongly about my pulmonarias). It was depressing. Almost as depressing as catching them in the neighbour's yard that afternoon, after they'd tired of their Monsanto Wallow.

So there you have it. Good times with chickens. I can hardly wait till they stop laying and start moulting. Or get caught by a cat...

1 comment:

Andrea said...

haha! yes... chickens. Free range chickens and lovely flower gardens are not often in the same yard... are they? No matter what I did, mine made a beeline for my little sprouts each spring and turned my flower beds into dust baths. I don't let them out so much these days....