Nobody Here But Us Chickens

Can’t you just hear this hen telling that strange black camera thingy not to come another step closer? It might seem from this photo that our new Buff Orpington chicks are staying pretty close to home.

Innocents abroad, our new girls have run of the farm, looking like some version of tyrannosaurus rex when they run full-speed after a grasshopper (that’s my beloved biofuel pink Mercedes in the background).

One of my daily chores is to let my chickens out every morning at dawn and tuck them in every night, safe from predators. Nightfall for the older hens has been about a half hour after dusk. But my new teenagers don’t find their way into the coop until just moments before it’s completely dark. And even then, they’re inside the coop pushing each other off the roost, snickering, bantering, and having the occasional pillow fight (feathers everywhere). The older hens? They look up at me with that exhausted mother look, “We know, we know. Maybe you can get them to settle down. We’ve tried everything we can think of.”

Did you know chickens were the first domesticated animal on earth and have some 25 different vocal calls in their vocabulary that some say is more advanced than the language of primates? I have a friend who has been known to put a baby monitor in her hen house. She tells people (non-chicken lovers) she wants to hear if they’re in danger from skunks or other varmits, but actually it’s because she loves the sound of chickens going to sleep. They make a soothing, quiet clucking and keening moan, with an occasional flutter of wings that is very calming. If you’ve heard this sound, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

“She kept her ears permanently tuned to the chicken voices outside, so knew immediately when a coyote had crept into the yard, and barreled screaming for the front door before the rest of us had a clue. (I don’t know about the coyote, but I nearly needed CPR.) These hens owed their lives and eggs to Lily, there was no question.”   -Barbara Kingsolver, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

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  1. Shery says:

    I do know that soft chittering noise they make when it is “bed-night time”. :o) My husband’s daughters called it that when they were little. I love my hens. I’ve had a few very nice roosters over the years too. They can be very fatherly and caring when raised naturally…and talk to their babies just like hens do when they find something tasty to eat. Most roosters get ornery and simply obnoxious (serial rapists) that eventually wear the feathers off of hen’s backs; and I prefer not to have them around. But, there have been a few that were sweet, exceedingly friendly and sweet. My bantam Cochin rooster “Bud” won Best Of Show many years back — not only because of his appearance and quality, but because he was a “show” bird — meaning that he wooed the judge, talked to him, strutted and befriended him. The judge told me he was a Very good bird and he had judged poultry, doves and pigeons all over the world. I was tickled pink with the win. I had only showed my birds that one time. Bud was a lap setter and a true pet.

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