13 April 2008

I Know Why the Caged Bird Squawks and Freaks Out

Although our chickens usually keep themselves quite busy in the compost production department, this weekend we put them on weed-eating duty in the garden. The idea was that, since the chickens generally try to eat everything in sight, we'd let them loose in the garden where they could chomp on weeds and bugs until they put themselves into food comas.

That idea didn't really pan out. Even though the garden is about 1200 square feet, the ladies chose to hang out in the same 4x8 bed that Kelly and I were working on. Bertha, specifically, thought that she could provide the most help by tap dancing in the tray of compost we were using to fill in the holes of our transplanted seedlings. That was actually no help at all.

We decided to change our approach. It became obvious that we should have built a chicken tractor to keep the ladies on task. As a weak substitute, we dragged out a big cage that we built a few years ago to keep a groundhog from eating our cucumbers. The cage only had room for one chicken to comfortably move around inside and Stella, who was in the wrong place at the wrong time, got volunteered for the position. She was really pissed and she strutted around the cage with her chest puffed out, making noises like she was going to attack someone. We ignored her and hoped that she would calm down and start eating bugs.

She didn't. Instead, she just stared forlornly at the other chickens, who were still running around like idiots.

Stella ate no bugs, and she became increasingly pathetic as she stood and watched the other chickens enjoying their freedom on the outside. I didn't know that chickens had enough emotional complexity to become despondent, but apparently they do. It was clear that Stella wasn't going to get any work done, so we let her out after a couple of minutes.

Interestingly, she seemed to be scared straight by her ten minutes in confinement because soon after her release she was leading the other chickens on a weed-eating expedition.

14 comments:

Mia said...

Stella certainly learned her lesson! Keep weeding, girl!

ourfriendben said...

Classic post!!! Poor Stella really did look despondent, didn't she? Drooping beak and all!

CeeCee said...

Poor Stella (LOL!). What about a bit of fence strung into a circle and tied with zip ties. It makes for "Beverly Hillbilly" style chicken tractor, but will do in a pinch. You couldn't use it when you weren't there to keep an eye on them though, they'd be perfect snacks for Redtails that way.
I have found that chickens do exactly the opposite of what I want them to do--always. ;0)

Nancy J. Bond said...

Poor Stella! I'm glad she's behaving now that she has her freedom back. :)

dig this chick said...

Hmmm. I have been trying to decide if I should build a tractor or not. We just got chickens and they are currently in our bathroom. I best build something soon!

Katie said...

I love living vicariously through your chicken (mis)adventures.

henbogle said...

Now think back. Have you ever been working in the garden and come across a bug or worm which you threw to the ladies? I'm guessing yes, and they remember, and were hovering about waiting for you to unearth a few more earthworms for them --a favorite snack!
Ali

Meg's mom said...

I love this post! Great pics of the girls, too. Usually they don't behave to have their pics taken.

Farmgirl_dk: said...

Aw, what great pictures! You have a 1200sq ft garden??? Oh my! Now I feel like a real loser feeling as sore as I do after working in my litle plot this weekend. Thanks a lot for that. :-)

malisa said...

I've been doubled over laughing at your girls.

Thanks for sharing.

Jean Ann said...

That is hysterical! I can't wait to have chickens...

Twinville said...

haha! You have the best farm ever! Tap Dancing Chickens, no less. Love it!

That one pic of Stella inside the cgae, looks like you were right inside with her.

Can I just say that I thoroughly enjoyed this post so very much?

Oh, yes, I just did! hehe

kate smudges said...

Poor Stella - I was feeling for her and was pleased she got to work after being let out. Chickens have such quirky personalities ... I'd really like to have some, except my neighbours would complain. Damn.

Meg said...

We're glad you all were amused by our chickens! I don't know if it's just a coincidence or if they've actually learned something, but lately they've done a much better job of leaving us alone and going off to eat bugs in the garden.