16/2/2020 0 Comments
The hens have had a satisfying weekend roaming free, which is to say sitting under the feijoa trees. A couple of years ago I read a commercial chicken farmer writing in response to revelations that so-called free-range chickens were staying in their barns, not accessing the available outdoors. Chickens are forest birds, was the defence, and prefer to remain under shelter. I read this in disbelief, as my hens sprawled at my feet lounging on the deck, where they spent much of that summer sunbathing, in between bouts of grazing on the lawn. Forest birds! But Maude, Mabel, Goldie and even Wilma (who used to sunbathe on the deck with the others) would seem to agree. (Even so, if the farmed chickens choose not to range freely, they are not free-range chickens, and won't count as free-range chickens until they are given access to an outdoors they actually like to go out into, perhaps with feijoa trees.) Under the feijoa trees, and in the coop, the hens all seem to get on very amicably these days, announcing the discovery of something interesting, sharing dust-baths, dozing in little feathery heaps. When they first leave the coop in the mornings, though, quite a bit of what I call posturing goes on between the three little ones. Two of them will suddenly face each other with their chests out, feathers fluffed out and heads held high, each trying to look bigger than the other, staring each other in the eye, and then suddenly it will all be over, whether one, usually Goldie, lowers her head in a submission pose, or sometimes just makes a wild dash for freedom, or whether, usually when it is Maude and Mabel, both will just drop the pose as suddenly as they put it on, and go back to their business nibbling on weeds or digging up the garden. It seems pretty evenly matched between Maude and Mabel these days, which might be why so much of the posturing is going on, and even Goldie did stare down Maude in one contest. Maude is more bluster than follow-through, I am beginning to suspect.
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