Batty about Ex-bats

With a friend swat­ting up for some hen­sit­ting ses­sions, a con­ver­sa­tion en­sues and Jo Bar­low ends up los­ing the ar­gu­ment that her girls are un­fail­ingly bril­liant

Your Chickens - - Contents -

By Jo Bar­low

AF­TER MY friend Christine (Chris) Wil­son, aka the Lovely Chris, had read a fas­ci­nat­ing ar­ti­cle on­line, she and I were chat­ting about how clever hens are. Like all hen keep­ers, I al­ready knew this fact, but she was do­ing some ad­mirable swat­ting up for a hen­sit­ting ses­sion for us. And, be­fore you ask, I wasn’t test­ing her to as­sess her suit­abil­ity. Our con­ver­sa­tion went along the lines of:

Chris: “Did you know hens talk to their un­born young?”

Me: “Yes, mine cog­gle their eggs and chirrup to them (not sure if cog­gle* is the right word).”

Chris: “Did you know that hens have mem­o­ries?”

Smug Me: “Yes, Eliza and Flora re­mem­bered each other af­ter 18 months apart.”

Chris: “Did you know that hens are as in­tel­li­gent as a three-year-old hu­man?”

Smug Me: “More so in most cases… my girls, in par­tic­u­lar, are es­pe­cially bright….”

And so it fol­lowed along a sim­i­lar vein un­til she came to one par­tic­u­lar ques­tion.

Chris: “Did you know hens can show re­straint?”

Ul­trasmug Me: “Oh yes. My girls will ig­nore their lunchtime corn as they know that di­rectly af­ter­wards I will go to the coop and check for eggs. They also know that I will oh so ac­ci­den­tally drop the egg so that they can hoover it up, thus show­ing re­straint.” Case for the de­fence of the bril­liance of my hens con­cluded.

Then Chris pointed out that if they cog­gle the eggs, why do they then eat them? Not so clever af­ter all, eh? Good point. The case for the de­fence was crum­bling fast.

What hap­pens in their lit­tle heads then to trans­form what is a pre­cious egg one minute that they will cog­gle gen­tly, en­dear­ingly chirrup­ing away to their ‘baby’ (we have no cock­erel so no chance of it be­ing a real baby), into a de­li­cious treat the next? They seem to to­tally dis­con­nect the two. Very much a case of what hap­pens in the coop stays in the coop.

Even brood­ies act the same. Af­ter nasty cruel mum takes them off the egg to make them (shock hor­ror) go out­side and eat, they then spy the eggfest go­ing on and bun­dle in, beaks at the ready.

Big buxom Het­tie and small but ro­tund In­grid Bergman even went one step fur­ther. Broody at the same time, they were squab­bling over the one egg in the coop, both try­ing to sit on it to hatch it (again, no cock­erel, girls). Nat­u­rally, they even­tu­ally squashed it. Did they mourn the loss of their baby? Did I hear wails of dis­tress? No I did not. What I heard was si­lence as two very naughty hens de­voured the egg. A bit of shell and two eggy beaks the only ev­i­dence.

So, it would seem that hens are rather like hu­mans. Some are bril­liant, some are an egg short of a dozen. But un­like hu­mans, all hens are gor­geous, and even if my girls won’t be ap­pear­ing on Eg­gheads in the near fu­ture, they are still the most won­der­ful girls in the world.

*To cog­gle: a verb used in Scot­land, mean­ing to wob­ble or rock; be un­steady (Collins On­line Dic­tio­nary). So not the right word at all then.

TOP: Hens are rather like hu­mans — some are bril­liant and some are an egg short of a dozen BE­LOW: Milly BOT­TOM: Miffy

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