We’re happy to be back in California. Since we had an early start on travel day, it was still daylight when our commuter flight glided up the coast and after an apparent sprinkling of rain, the Santa Ynez mountains stood soft and green against a crisp and clear fall sky. It’s always hard to say goodbye to New York but with winter edging closer, it’s not all bad to be back in SoCal.
We arrived to find the house transformed once again by elves Julia and Grant, who put up all our Christmas decorations while we were away. Thanks to them (and a BIG thanks to them!) the homestead is now ready for the holiday onslaught.
And, of course, being home means life with chickens, and we were very happy to see our clucky little girls. I’ve been asked before whether chickens are smart enough to remember humans and I think the answer to that is yes. When a stranger approaches the hens will hang back for a bit, presumably checking to see whether the new human is concealing a meat cleaver behind his or her back. My impression is that they do recognize me, or, at the very least, they know the sound of my voice. If I’m wearing a hat, however, all bets are off – they won’t come near me. But then again, truth be told, I don’t look all that great in a hat.
Just how smart are chickens? A 2005 study by the Biophysics Group at Silsoe Research Institute in England found that chickens “probably show more cognitive ability than people would generally credit them with.” Using colored buttons correlated with food rewards that were larger when the bird opted for deferred gratification, the researchers found that chickens can anticipate the future and demonstrate self-control.
Well, some of them, at least. Not included in that group would be our Lucy. I confess, regretfully, that I do not love Lucy. Of the five in my new “crop” of hens, Lucy remains a shoo-in for Birdbrain Award of the Year. Lucy may be the living, breathing Exhibit A definition of “running around like a chicken with its head cut off”. Lucy is, I’m afraid, a dud.
Speckled Sussex are billed as good layers with a docile, friendly temperament. Wrong on all counts so far. Lucy is not docile, not friendly and not laying any eggs. At least not yet – maybe she will surprise us soon.
Our resident red-tailed hawk wasted no time in welcoming us home. The morning after we arrived, I let the ladies out to free-range while I cleaned the coop and saw a too-large-to-be-a-crow shadow swoop past the window. Indeed, the hawk had spied our birds and actually touched down on the ground – far too close for comfort! I rushed out all mother-hen-like and sent him on his way but we know he will return, again and again. It is a constant worry.
Other than daily threats of death and mayhem from Mr. Hawk, the chickens are doing just fine. I see a squabble here and there but no significant pecking order issues so they seem to have all that worked out. Hope is the undisputed leader and everyone seems happy with that.
We are getting two to three eggs daily now. Hope is a laying machine now that she’s left the broody life behind – proof that a two-year-old hen is not past her prime. Coco and Tulip are matching her egg for egg and as they lay more their eggs are increasing in size.
No eggs from Luna yet but who cares? If anyone can get by on looks alone, it’s little Luna!
From our peeps to yours, hope you’re enjoying the weekend and the start of the Advent season…