Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Tenacity of Chickens

I marvel at our chickens... they do have the proverbial "pecking order". There is one dominant rooster, and the subordinate males make clucking sounds like the hens, and don't dare crow. The top females are also most clear about who gets the feeder first. The hens are incredibly protective of their young, holding them up under their wings even in the heat of summer - god/dess help the dog who noses in too close! Also, they change their laying stations regularly, and seem to know which eggs are viable, and if something stills the viable egg, they know to leave it. Hens are adept at figuring out where to hide eggs - their brains are the size of peas for heaven's sake. Instinct that has apparently moved forward from their dinosaur ancestors...

They prefer to roost in our trees, up until the weather drops below zero - there is a pecking order for the branches. If one bird gets in the wrong spot, a hew and cry ensues until they all parachute to the ground, and start again. Some birds (usually adolescent roosters) must stay in separate trees. Maybe their smoking in bed or something... cracker crumbs perhaps?

The thing that truly amazes is a pair of chicks whose mother was killed when they were less than 2 weeks old - in the cold of winter, with little knowledge transferred from mom - these little gaffers are defying the odds and living. They would be about 5 weeks old now, and growing. Somehow they are protecting themselves, and seem to understand to stay under the heat lamp. Our barn cats are staying in the house now. but even when out there, they left the babies alone. I'm impressed.

An orderly society in our barn - amazing. I wish they would transfer some of these smarts to the equines!

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