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
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.
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