I do know that hens are not human and humans are not hens so I make these remarks only out of my interest in the sociology of the hen coop, but I have found it very interesting what an effect situation has on hen personality. One thing I have learned from keeping hens is how very distinct each hen’s personality is, almost from the moment the chick hatches out of the egg. Fly was always a bold and adventurous chick who was likely to rise to her eventual position at the top of the pecking order of our flock, Orly was always more timid. When I brought Brownie and Wilma into the coop, I selected a pair of hens who would not be dominant, worrying that Orly, who was lame by then, would be bullied, but I also asked for hens who could take care of themselves, worrying that Fly might bully hens who were too timid. I was assured that these two knew how to stay out of trouble and would not cause any trouble themselves, and this turned out to be true. It took some time before Fly accepted them as part of a flock, and for some time she was only interested in following me around during the day, shooing the others away if they came too close, but before too long they were a busy flock of three, when they weren’t back in the coop with Orly. Orly retained her position over them in the pecking order, needing only to give them a sharp look for them to back away from her food. At first, only Fly followed me into the bush on our spider hunts, but eventually Brownie started accompanying her, always keeping a few paces behind and letting Fly have first shot at catching any spiders we uncovered. It was a long time before Wilma started to occasionally tag along, and I always felt she was tagging along after the other hens, rather than after me. I always loved the sound of the hen feet trip-trapping over the bridge into the bush, feeling like the three Billy Goats Gruff. They always sounded as if they were in a hurry. After the loss of the other hens, Wilma herself was left with me as her only flock and it was interesting how quickly she took up Fly’s position following me around, waiting for me to shift the logs to reveal the spiders, digging where I was digging, talking to me about her finds, calling to me from the deck when I was inside the house. Now we have the three little birds, Wilma is throwing her weight around in the coop exactly the way Fly used to and in a way Wilma herself had never done, giving a completely different impression of what kind of personality she has, as if personality were not innate at all but entirely situational. It does make me wonder just a little about human psychology, and almost seems as if it ought to be interesting to think about this question theologically as well, except that it isn’t being high status that brings people closest to God but being rock bottom, and it isn’t only one person at a time in a community who can be close to God, but whole communities that are religious together. But you’d expect the situation to be different for humans who are, after all, not hens. (And of the three little hens, who clearly have very different personalities even though they have been brought into the coop at the same time, Maude already seems to relate to me as person to person, friend to friend, looking me in the eye, talking to me, and liking to be close to my side, even though she is not yet the lead hen of the coop. Perhaps she feels like a lead hen because she doesn’t count Wilma, who is too far above her to be one of her peers.)
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