Friday, July 25, 2008

Bird Brain

Well, the new chickens will have to wait: our pollero cancelled the sale as his flock has a health problem, and while I'm disappointed not to meet the new hens, I'm happy Aaron is responsible enough to hold off on the sale in order to prevent my flock from getting sick. So in the meantime...

One of G's childhood heroes was Roy Chapman Andrews. However, my first introduction to him was his quote from a children's book about the dinosaurs,
Brontosaur was about as stupid as an animal could be and still live.

Oh, harsh, Mr. Andrews! Especially for a saurintology disciple of the brontosaur such as myself.

The casual disregard for the other's intelligence has got me thinking about the chickens and their little bird brains. "Dumb cluck" comes to mind.

Yeah, they were stupid about recognizing the chateau for what it was, but they've only been alive for a few months. I can't imagine they had much experience to draw on, especially raised as most chickens are in brooders, and without any old hens around to tell them what's what.

So maybe not stupid so much as ignorant. They (and the ducks) are quick to notice what's going on around them. They certainly know my routine, and that when the bailey falls completely into shade, I'll soon be coming out with a bowl of tasty treats for them. When I clean their chateau they crowd around behind me to watch what I'm doing, and when I'm done rush inside to see what changed. I'm touching the water can; what does that mean? She's filling it! She does the cat-pan pool next! If I walk behind the chateau to check for eggs in the outside nest, they run around the corner to see what I'm up to. And it's almost always Marilyn investigating first. New food? Marilyn's the first to try it. Strange, plastic (recycling tub) thing in the bailey? Marilyn's the first to hop in. Maybe one day she'll be the old hen telling the young 'uns what's what in the world....

Tonight for dinner I wanted some salad greens so I left the stove to walk out back to the lettuce bed. The chickens and ducks noticed me there and ran to the bailey fence to watch. When they saw me walking toward them with a handful of greens they started aacking and ooting...and when I walked past their gate and into the back door Benny raised a holy stink, quack, quack, quacking with indignation. Greens are for ducks! Come back!

Pretty aware of what's going on, and not at all stupid, I'd say. I'd also say that the ducks are acting a lot like teenagers, throwing fits and trying to boss the chickens around. Sometimes I hear them out there making such a racket I think one of the cats must be in the bailey, but nope. Nothing's wrong. It's just the ducks running back and forth and quacking at the top of their lungs, tantrum-like. I suspect they'll start laying soon, and am hoping that calms them down.

There's our little escape artist, Marilyn Wyandotte, hunkered down in a fine dirt wallow in my strawberry bed. Bad chicken! She gets out all sorts of ways—including flying right through the mylar irri-tape strung over the top of their gate. Doesn't faze her a bit. Since she's so obliging about going back in the bailey I can't really get mad at her.


Wayne said...

It's amazing both how smart and how silly/stupid birds can be. :-)

Bones said...

I think it's pretty amazing how well they get on, especially considering the experiential handicap we place on them—a point I didn't emphasize enough in the mail blog post, I think.