I don’t know how we fully enjoyed life before we had chickens. Morning coffee couldn’t get much better as we watch the mixed flock of Plymouth Rocks, Rhode Island Reds, Buff Orphingtons, and Araucana hens and roosters fresh from the roost.
They start their morning on the back porch, which I found odd until I got up earlier than they one morning and discovered a porch speckled with lightly toasted June bugs the toads hadn’t eaten. Enjoying cooked food, the hens and their two roosters race first thing for these un
usual culinary delights. After finishing these crunchy snacks, the
ladies and their gents head to the back yard, scratching through the cedar duff
and the flower bed mulch for additional treats.
The girls definitely prefer to do their foraging in the pre-eighty degree temperatures of morning. By mid-day, all of them find the coolest spot they can under a huge cedar tree by the porch. I suppose they prefer to rest near the ho
use so they don’t have to worry about predators
while under Tucker the watchdog’s careful eye, and, most importantly, they will
be close by when I walk out the door with a fresh watermelon or cantaloupe rinds. They especially love fridge cleaning or old
bread tossing days.
What begins as restful, settling murmurs and cackles rapidly turns into a squawk fest. The momma hen, jealo
guarding her half grown chick, leads him away from the horde so her baby
doesn’t get trampled in the stampede for leftovers. I try to broadcast the goodies in a wide arc
so all chickens get a fair chance, but as in the human world, we have a couple
of hens who try to have it all. They run
around grabbing bits of goodies from other chickens’ beaks, but in the end
often end up with less than the others got or none at all.
Once the feast ends, the girls settle themselves back into their beauty rest. Watching them situate themselves provides its own entertainment. The hens scratch the powdery d
ust before gracefully lowering
their ungainly bodies into that loose earth.
As they settle, they create miniature d ust
storms. Once they’re arranged
satisfactorily, the quiet murmuring begins again—a nice counter balance to the
drone of loc usts.
Not only do the chickens entertain me with their eating and resting rituals. Some of them have intriguing egg laying habits. In the corner of our patio, we have a chimenea, which these hens consider an alternative nesting box. Some hens consider it easier to pop into the round-bellied fireplace to lay an egg than to return to the egg boxes in the chicken ho
use. The first time I saw my hen settle into the
sandy bottomed fireplace, I burst into laughter. Now it's common place to look there for an
egg or so each day.
One lazy girl laid one in the middle o f the yard the other day. I guess she chased one bug too many.
To add to the entertainment, we decided to set one of the hens who wanted to nest rather than buying chicks and placing them under lights in the garage. Our first experiment got a bit too exciting due to a bull snake invasion. The momma did her job j
ust fine until a six
foot bull snake weaseled his way into her protected nesting area. The gluttono us
reptile swallowed four of her eggs before my h usband
caught it with the eggs in it. The snake m ust
have frightened the hen enough that she let all but one of the remaining eggs
get too cold. When hatch day arrived,
only one tiny chick picked its way out.
A few weeks ago another hen announced her desire to set on a clutch of eggs by pecking me every afternoon when I went out to gather eggs. We set her up in the special nesting site, and we’ll know Friday the 13th whether or not we have another lucky momma hen.
While the roosters make great alarm clocks each dawn, and the whole flock does a bang-up job reducing grasshopper populations while producing orange-yolked protein products, I most enjoy my chickens beca
they remind me to settle back and relish the moment. Who needs tranquilizers when a flock of
chickens can calm you down in a flash, make you laugh, and deliver several
dozen eggs a week?