What I’m thinking today is that chickens are a lot like humans. Yes, I know they are actually the last extant remnant of the dinosaur, but mine are acting a lot more like humans. Fickle, moody, argumentative, rapacious.
It was just a few weeks ago that I bragged about my flock, the little utopia that it was. Each hen a perfectly functioning cog in the machine, truly a peaceable kingdom. Dare I say it – poultry in motion.
But that was then and this is now. We’ve got problems.
Pippa is the little old lady of the flock, a perky bantam who defined her turf from the get-go with our three newish hens. She had to. They are all three times her size! It was amusing to see how she had them all cowed. If they came too close to a morsel of scratch she coveted, she would charge at them and they’d squawk and run for cover. Well and good. It’s called pecking order and it is the basic infrastructure of flock machinery, an invisible fabric that knits together the personalities and foibles of a group of hens.
But Ava the Australorp and Nugget the Rhode Island Red must have looked in a mirror and noticed that they are huge and Pippa is just a pipsqueak. They have turned the tables. It is not amusing in the least to watch them chase and peck her. She is terrified.
Those in the know, the self-styled chicken experts of the Internet, say that pecking order is endlessly dynamic and that disturbances work themselves out with time. It is just another episode of the soap opera that makes it so fascinating to watch the “chicken channel” of one’s flock, they say.
But in the meantime, Pippa has taken to seclusion, and to the rafters of the coop and to the far reaches of the chicken yard, from whence she refuses to budge when it is time to go back inside. Have you ever tried to chase a chicken? Endlessly humbling. They are faster than you are and will outwit you every time. Little Pippa has us literally on the run!
It could be that Pippa is aging. At five and a half, she is edging up to the outer reaches of the average chicken lifespan. Or it could just be that it is spring and the other girls are feeling their oats. Or it could just be chickens deciding to act like humans.
Whatever it is, we are hoping for a détente to arrive sooner than later. Turns out it is a full-time job playing referee to hen-pecking squabbles and the entertainment value is wearing thin.
If you get an invitation to drop by for chicken soup sometime soon, you’ll know why…