Monday, April 28, 2008

Chicken Football

I could sit and watch those chickens for hours. I can't, though, because even though Sugar Baby is so cute saying "teh-tens, tee-tens," the minute I put her down she heads for the garden to eat mulch and dirt clods. And Hanno is no better. When she's not trying out somersaults in the grass, she's running hysterically around the yard with a maniacal laugh that sets the hens on edge. So I get very few opportunities to commune with the poultry.
However, we got a good laugh at their antics tonight. Everything I've read about raising a backyard flock encourages feeding kitchen scraps to the birds. Thus, I brought the girls a treat of squishy, stale grapes. Keep in mind that chickens have intellects on par with river rocks. Within our small flock there is a range of measurable IQ's with a high that is several standard deviations away from average. The White Leg'orns are the brains of the bunch (remember the cartoon?), the Rhode Island Reds are next, and the Araucanas, they have pretty feathers.
So I tossed the grapes into the center of the pen (you would have thought it was a hand grenade the way some of them ran), and the white girls were all over them. One picked a grape up in her beak and started running. She had no idea WHAT it was, but she had it. And they all wanted it. So there are 10 chickens chasing her back and forth around the pen. (Yes, 10 chasing chickens. One of the Reds feels that chicken football is purely a spectator sport.) Feathers are flyin'. Back. And forth. And back. Forth. And then someone else gets another grape. Then they all go look at the bunch of grapes. Then they eat them.
Now, the reds and the whites think that grapes are delicious. The Araucanas aren't sure what to think. Each Araucana get a grape, but only because everyone else has one. They run, too, but only because everyone else is. They drop their grapes and eye them, cocking their heads to peer down at them. Then they pick up their grape and run some more. Then a white girl or a red girl tries to get their grape and they give it up, with a bewildered look. (Actually, the Araucanas always look a little bewildered. Maybe its their green feet.) I was actually a little worried that the grapes were make them insane. Or drunk. But no, they are just silly chicken-girls.
On Friday I got the bright idea to feed them dandelions. See, after all the rain we've had, we have a particularly large crop of dandelions that have gone to seed. We have hundreds of pale afros atop skinny, flesh-colored stems in the backyard. I thought I saw birds eating some of the seeds and I thought "Hmmm, maybe the chicken girls would like to eat an afro?" I'm always looking for ways to keep the chickens happy. Because happy chickens=lots of eggs. So I picked a fluffy one and marched over to the pen.
The white chicken girls were waiting for me. Can't say their mouths were watering because they don't have lips and its hard to tell about those things. But they saw that pale, limp ("wormlike") stem in my hand and got very excited. I poked the 'fro thru the wire and one of them grabbed it out of my hand. More chicken football (see description above...back, forth, etc.). Only THEN did I realize that they thought I had brought them a tasty worm and not a ("hack, cough, where's the water?") fuzzy dandelion head. I think they each gave me a dirty look thinking I had tricked them on purpose. I immediately told them I was so very sorry and set about to digging earthworms in the garden. Dig, dig, dig, move the Sugar Baby away from the garden, dig, dig, move Sugar Baby, dig, dig, dig, applaud for Hannah's somersaults, dig, dig, dig.....

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