Sunday, April 25, 2010

Chicken Behavior - What Have We Wrought?

Chickens Can Learn - a case study of two
Unlike, many humans I know, chickens can indeed learn from their behavior. I know it is fashionable to consider chickens one of the sillier creatures with which we share the earth. Well if so, it is only because we have taken them from nature and bred them for centuries under our influence.

For example they have carefully studied human behavior and learned to treat the environment just as we do. Give them enough time and they will ensure that no green thing remains upon the earth. This they obviously learned from our practices. One cannot blame them for mimicking their masters. They also have a great predilection for moving the soil from one place to another. Mountain top removal comes to mind.

Similarly a review of our habits has led them to toss their mess about indiscriminately and expect someone else to clean up their quite extraordinary messes. This does man leave his waste and wreckage upon the earth and expect other people or other generations to find a way to deal with it. Chicken messes at least are small, local and can eventually replenish the soil. Ours have a way of being huge, international and generally inorganic or render effectively so by burying it in plastic bags.

Finally, a close study of us has led them to develop a society based on a strict and brutally enforced pecking order. Fortunately, in this case my little flock defies the norm. Millicent and Abigail go happily about leaning into one another so close one can only assume they are joined at the hip. Millie seemed quite docile and restrained during Abby’s recent sick day. My girls seem to be socialists as heart. Or at least dear old spinster sisters who look after one another while keeping up a constant dialogue of disapproval, warning and general clucking. There is something warm and heartening about these two little exceptions. I feel blessed to have them gouging about in my home garden and leaving little suprises on my pathways.

By the way, don’t assume chickens to be simple ciphers of our molding. Don’t think chickens can’t be bright. They may have limited resources, but they want to learn and can learn– at least simple things. Chickens are smarter than I would ever have thought. Millicent has become so used to me clucking “Milly” right after she has done something wrong – that is has now become the code word for stop with both the girls. If I hear them making way to much noise early in the morning, I have only to lean into the kitchen window and say Milly and the noise stops. Well, for like 3 minutes at least – hey I did not say they were geniuses. But it is true they have made a connection – one sharp “milly!” will cause them both to stop in their tracks and hunker down like 50s school children hiding from the bomb. On further consideration this could be a problem. I hope I don’t have to send her into therapy. Poor Millie.


  1. LOL Chicken therapy, nice. X3

  2. Don't laugh - if insurance would pay for it Im sure someone would open a practice ; )


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