One of the greatest pleasures of my day this summer has been moving the chicken tractors to a fresh patch of grazing in the morning and communing with the chickens while they enjoy their fresh food, water and surroundings. My five-year-old granddaughter and I frequently indulged in an activity we like to call, “What will chickens eat?” So far it’s minnows, tomatoes, worms, bread, crackers, bugs (but not all), melons, oranges, garden peas…but the biggest hit so far is a branch laden with chokecherries. Think of feathered piranhas here: the branch comes back out completely bare in seconds!
Since our laying hens have matured and are allowed free range, their true chickenness has come into play. They raid the compost, intimidate the cat, hang out on the veranda when there’s company, invade the doghouse, find impossible places to lay their eggs and generally investigate every nook and cranny of the yard. Their capacity for self-enternainment is endless. I particularly like their signature line dance move that goes, “scratch, scratch, backwards shuffle.” It never gets old for me, nor for them it would appear, since it’s their preferred way of uncovering tasty morsels in the dirt.
They also have an endearing habit of rushing headlong to greet me in the yard with a somewhat ungainly chicken lope that resembles a highjumper approaching the bar…head forward, wings back, and legs stretched out impossibly long. I don’t kid myself that their pleasure in my company hasn’t been greatly enhanced by the fact that I handfeed them tidbits from the garden and wash station on harvest days.
This summer has been my first full-on encounter with chickens (both meat and layers). I’ll confess to being a complete convert. Whereas I previously regarded chickens with a degree of disdain, considering them brainless and completely without personality, I now know them as engaging creatures that are amazingly well equipped to look after themselves. While I still wouldn’t mistake them for Mensa canditates, I find hanging with chickens most therapeutic.
So if I’m not answering the phone or replying to your emails, I’m likely outside, communing with chickens 🙂