Spooks and scares

Chick­ens have some odd fears, says Michelle Dunn

Country Smallholding - - Files Egg -

Oc­to­ber is Hal­loween, the month for spooks and scares. Su­per­sti­tion runs wild, and ir­ra­tional fear stalks the streets. Ir­ra­tional fear is also a com­mon fea­ture within the chicken pop­u­la­tion. I once had a hen that was afraid to go into the chicken shed if she had to cross a thin crack in the chicken shed floor to get in. When I cov­ered the crack with a cloth she was fine, but if I un­cov­ered it - no chance. Now that’s a se­ri­ously su­per­sti­tious chicken.

Then there are the chick­ens that take of­fence if I wear a new hat, and run off shriek­ing into the hedges when they catch sight of my un­fa­mil­iar sil­hou­ette. You can imag­ine the scenes of hys­te­ria when a de­liv­ery driver ar­rives. Even the post­man’s reg­u­lar daily visit shocks them into a com­plete flap (and a flock of chick­ens re­ally know how to flap).

Some fears are more ra­tio­nal. My chick­ens are very con­cerned if Bryn, my bor­der col­lie gets too close. He has never chased or hurt them, but he is fox-shaped, so a fear of him does at least make some sense. But what about their fear of new foods? Well, new foods that I give them, any­way. I have seen my chick­ens leap­ing up and de­mol­ish­ing rasp­ber­ries, red­cur­rants and ap­ples, but if I put a bowl of mixed fruit in front of them they will cir­cle it sev­eral times mak­ing a ‘well, I’m not at all sure about this’ sort of noise.

My chick­ens are afraid of small chil­dren. This is quite log­i­cal, as small chil­dren are rather prone to chas­ing af­ter chick­ens and mak­ing sud­den loud noises. But my chick­ens are com­pletely re­laxed when steal­ing grain from the pigs’ trough, and if ever there was a beast prone to sud­den move­ments and loud noises it’s an ex­citable young pig. Sim­i­larly, the chick­ens are usu­ally fairly wary of the sheep, but all this changes at lamb­ing time. When the sheep are lamb­ing, the chick­ens are very keen to help clean up af­ter­wards, even if the ewe is pos­i­tively un­friendly to them.

The list of things which I think my chick­ens should be afraid of but aren’t is a long one, and in­cludes cars, chain­saws, strim­mers and crows. Whether or not they are afraid of ghosts – who can tell?

Chick­ens are ir­ra­tional - scared of hats but not of pigs.

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