Saturday, November 20, 2010

lessons learned while watching the chickens

  • Never give up hope.
While doing the washing today I dropped a bag on the ground to pick up later. Roxanne came running from the depths of the backyard just in case it was food for her. She quickly lost interest when it wasn't and headed over to peck at some nearby grass somewhat self consciously. (Chickens can be embarrassed can't they?) Frank and I probably have food for the chickens about a quarter of the time we go down the back, but if we have anything in our hand, those chickies come a-running as fast as they can. Just in case. Ever hopeful. Never giving up. That's the kind of hope we could all do with a bit of!
  • Get over yourself and enjoy what's in front of you.
Hector the Protector is hilarious. He takes his manly duties very seriously, and seeks out food for the chickens, calls them to it urgently then steps back while they consume his find. He is the perfect gentleman. When Frank and I take food down and the chickens run over to us, he gets a little put out. He kind of stalks over sulkily, picks out anything on the ground and starts pecking at it and calling to the chickens, "Over here, I've got food for you here, come on, don't eat what they've brought!" He doesn't have much success, because the chickens know a good thing when they eat it. Too many times have they run for Hector's shrivelled up leaves or every-day-stems of grass - they want porridge and rice and scraps. Poor Hector stands rather forlornly for a moment or two before he eats his pride and joins the party, though always staying on the fringe of the fun. I'm sure he would find it so much more enjoyable if he ran with gay abandon as the chickens do, straight to the food - no wasted emotion, no crushed pride, just pure bliss at the joy of beautiful food.
  • If you don't need to fight... don't.
The lovely thing about free range chickens is the incredibly delicious eggs. The down side is feeding every bird in the neighbourhood who has discovered the free seed. All day sparrows and starlings and wood pigeons flit in and out of the open coup for their fill of the goodies. I have no idea how much seed we lose this way, but Hector has decided it has to stop. Now if it was me, I might be charging at all these pesky birds with a gun. Perhaps if I was a rooster I might chase them, maybe even scratch them with my thorny talons. But not our Hector... he's a gentle soul. Morning and evening he plonks himself down right beside the seed feeder and just sits there guarding it. His simple presence is enough to send the smaller birds packing, and peaceful protest wins the day. You go Hector... we love you!

(I should add, we have only one chicken and Hector at present, what with marauding stray dogs, disease and a strange disappearance one night when we were away. Roxanne remains healthy and lays eggs like a trooper, but we do miss the others)

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