Spooks and scares
Chickens have some odd fears, says Michelle Dunn
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.