Miss Marple, our Australorp hen, has developed a bad attitude. She’s obviously the one in charge. She knows it, she knows the other hens know it and she knows I know it. She walks around scrambling to get the treat or worm that the other chickens are enjoying. “You’re scratching there, I’m going to scratch there!”, “You’re dust bathing there, get out, it’s my turn!”, “Why are you laying an egg right now!? Whhhyy!!? Move over I’m coming in!”.
Before you think I’m stranger than you realized by putting words in my chicken’s mouth, you should know one thing. She squawks constantly, this is just my interpretation of her squawks. Ugh, it’s a little exhausting to listen to. On the weekends when we are a little slower to get up and open the coop (mind you the sun will have just started to show itself) you will be woken by a lovely, “SQUUAAAWWWKK!…bok, bok, bok…bbaaaaSQUAAAWK!”. Yeah, you can hear it in our bedroom, which is at the complete other end of the property. Last weekend when I got up to this racket (7:30 am) and walked out there to open the coop, Miss Marple literally through her entire body weight at the window, smacking it with so much force I actually gasped and had to regroup. Did rabies somehow infect my flock?
I opened the little coop door, Miss Marple pushes her way past everyone else, walks out onto the landing blocking the others from getting out, looks up towards me and “bok, bok, SQUAAAAAAWWK!” She then runs out into the yard to her favorite grassy spot like she deserves to graze at her leisure.
What a pill. It gets worse. Usually I bring treats out to my chickens, probably once a day. Some oatmeal, left over lettuce or veggies, a heel of bread…that cooked pasta I didn’t use, stuff like that. Of course Miss Marple is on the front lines, usually jumping up a couple feet in the air to peck at whatever is in my hand before I put it down. No biggie. However, I went out there last week just to hang, collect eggs, ya know. Miss Marple runs up, thinking I’ll have a treat. When she’s pretty sure I don’t have one, she leaps up and pecks my thigh so hard she broke the skin through my freaking jeans! “What the hell!? Miss Marple chill, chill!” That’s me yelling at Miss Marple as she follows me around the yard. Holy crap! She always does this neck swaying thing right before she swoops in for that kind of maneuver. It’s a little creepy.
What Miss Marple doesn’t know is that I was a psychology major. I know how she learned that I always bring treats and I know how get her to unlearn it. So for the past 8 days every time I walk into the yard for the first time, Miss Marple and company come running…”treats, treats, treats.” I wait for Miss Marple to walk right up to me and do that neck craning thing she does as she inspects my hands…then…swoop! I lean down quickly which forces Miss Marple and the other birds actually, to crouch down (remember the sexual crouch?). I pick her up and just hold her.
Miss Marple actually falls asleep when she’s picked up. So I pick her up and hold her for a long time while scratching her neck, warming her feet. She dozes in and out of consciousness while quietly uttering soft clucks. Then, I slowly and calmly set her down. She stands there a little dazed, ruffles her feathers and walks away.
This morning ladies and gentleman, I walked into the yard and when Miss Marple ran up to me, I barely leaned forward at all. She crouched instantaneously. When I didn’t swoop in on her she stood up a little confused, turned, trotted a couple of feet away and started eating grass, ignoring me completely. Aaahhhh, I love classical conditioning. It’s still a work in progress. For example she doesn’t like me picking up the other birds. She’ll run at me and try to peck my hand as I’m grabbing them. It really pisses her off to see them getting attention.
Funny though how chickens are so much like people. The ones who look like they have it all, the best grassy spots and treats, the sunniest patch of dirt, the nicest spot on the roost, do not lead a peaceful existence. Their life is a constant battle to keep up with others, have more than others, take from others. Be better at any cost…even if it means hurting others. From sun up to sun down, it consumes them. Nothing ever satisfies. Other people’s happiness is threatening. People who behave like Miss Marple alienate themselves. Who wants to hang with Miss Marple? Everyone is trying to get away from her. They don’t want to take part in the war she’s started. It’s the life of the other hens that I want. They get something taken from them and they shrug it off and look for something else. They don’t look worried or stressed. They actually pause, let the wind ruffle their feathers, smell the air, turn their face to the sun and close their eyes. I love watching them do that. I like to think it’s them enjoying their life, happy to be alive.
Probably not, but just let me think that okay?