Wednesday, May 18, 2005

What I Love About Chickens

They are so intensely social. I mean, you get a couple of cats, and they pretty much ignore each other (and you) their entire lives. But chickens cannot stand to be apart from each other for a single minute. They do everything together. If one of them decides to go over and have a drink of water, they all go. If one of them bites off a blade of grass, they all have some grass. And don't even think about what might happen if three of them wander off in one direction and the fourth gets left behind.

Yesterday we moved the chicks from the henhouse back inside (update: they are spending their days outside but coming indoors to sleep, and the plan is to have them sleeping outside by next weekend), and we could only round up three of them. So we carried them indoors and left Eleanor outside, figuring she would be more ready to hop on one of our arms and come inside if her little friends were already there.

We were right about that and then some. There is nothing more heartbreaking than the cries of a 7 week-old Rhode Island Red chick who has been left suddenly all alone. The cries rang out across the backyard. Really, it was gut-wrenching. But it lasted all of about 30 seconds, the time it took me to sprint back to the henhouse and offer my arm as a perch.

We are working on a little training with the chicks. Yogurt at night before bed. Ring the bell at yogurt time. Little things like that, which we hope will make it easy to gather them up and get them back into their coop when we need them to go.

There are any number of other treats we have not yet tried: chicken scratch (cracked corn), cottage cheese, etc. I heard they loved peanut butter, but I brought a lump of it out on a spoon and the spoon freaked them out so much that they never tried the peanut butter. Today I brought them the little green tops of strawberries, which they eyed with great suspicion (they eye everything with great suspicion) and I don't think they ate those, either. Last night, however, I went to visit them in the bathroom with a Martini in hand, and they were intensely interested in that. Every time I picked up the glass, they cocked their heads and looked at me with one beady eye. Drunken chicken? Sounds like a waste of perfectly good gin to me.

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