Well, a lifetime
of bland beige crumbles and mushy treats seems pretty grim to us,
so on the second or third day they were here, we started putting
some grit in their food. These gals are eating machines and gobbled
down everything in their bowls, including the grit. Today I figured
they were ready for some variety and added some scratch seeds to
their food. A mixture of crushed corn and wheat, sorghum, oat and
millet seeds, chickens love the stuff.
The chooks who
have been living here a long time see food as a wonderful adventure.
They are relentlessly omnivorous, gleefully having at whatever is
growing within reach in the garden and munching bugs and worms and
an occasional mouse. They've even eaten a few snakes. Anything new
and different in the dishes disappears very quickly. The world is
their buffet table.
These Reds though,
have never experienced variety. As far as they know, food is crumbles.
Crumbles are food. That's all there is to that. Sure, they'd tried
the canned corn and liked it, but at least that was the same color
as food. This stuff looked suspiciously different.
boldest of the bunch, the gal who always approaches first, sidled
up to the food dish. She looked down at the contents with one eye,
twisted her head, and looked with the other. Hm. This stuff looked
strange from any angle. A chicken with a full beak could easily
have picked around the foreign objects, but a severely debeaked
hen doesn't have that option. Her blunt, rounded beak can't do the
precision work. She circled the bowl, eyeballing the contents to
see if they looked any better from the other side. Eventually, she
leaned over and gingerly took a bit of food. She straightened up,
swallowed, and waited for the world to come to an end. When it didn't,
she dug in. And the others came running over to try it for themselves.
In short order, they emptied the dishes and stared at me, having
already figured out that I serve at least one useful function as
the provider of goodies.
new food, they were ready for the big arrival. Fluffernutter, the
hen who is due to hatch her new chicks in the coming week, and her
guardian-escort, Gooberoo, were installed in the other section of
We brought in
the cage Fluffernutter and Gooberoo had both used when they were
injured. It's a big cage made for a large breed dog and they feel
safe in there. Fluffernutter needed a temporary nest, so we put
her eggs on top of some bedding in a bottled water carton and moved
that along with a food dish and a waterer into the cage and left
the cage door open so they could go in and out as they chose.
Goobie is a
little guy, weighing in at about two pounds. Since shortly after
he was hatched, he's seen himself as a real Lothario. The hens have
held another opinion and little Gooberoo never did have many slots
filled on his dance card. Today his entire world changed.
For nearly a
week, the Reds had been fascinated by the sounds of unseen roosters
crowing in the other room and outside. Every crow got their rapt
attention. They'd stop whatever they'd been doing (milling about,
scratching around in the bedding, gossiping in that secret language
they have) and stand still, gaping in the direction of the crows.
and Gooberoo were moved into their new quarters, Goobie immediately
spotted the hens on the other side of the gate. Determined to impress
them with his roosterly charms and put any other males in the vicinity
on notice, he crowed his little heart out.
The gals came
racing over to the gate. A rooster! A rooster they could SEE! Never
having seen one before, they had no idea Gooberoo was
lacking. He was a real rooster! Right there in front of them! He
was on the other side of the gate, but there he was.
with the kind of attention from hens he'd always craved but had
never gotten, our Goob took the only course of action he could think
of --- he ran around behind the cage to hide from them. After a
few tentative peeks around the corner to find the hens had drifted
away, he decided to go at it with that ever popular standby of rooster
courtship - telling lies.
a peculiar mix of absurd machismo and old fashioned gentlemanliness.
When a rooster finds food, before eating it he will make a "nuck
nuck nuck" sound to let the hens know he has treats to share
with them. He picks up bits of the food and drops it back to the
ground so the hens can see he's offering it to them.. While this
"nuck nuck nuck" stuff is reminiscent of a Three Stooges
movie to you and me, and therefore not exactly romantic, it's a
big draw with the hens. They all come running. When a rooster sees
all the hens hanging around his rival, he has two options to steal
them away - by beating up the other rooster or by telling lies.
"Nuck nuck nuck" and all the hens come running to see
what kind of taste delight awaits them. When they discover there's
nothing, they don't seem to mind having been tricked. They take
a philosophical attitude and just set about scratching and pecking.
it was with Gooberoo. Standing inches from the gate, but pretending
not to notice the girls on the other side, he scratched the bedding
furiously, turned, muttered to himself, scratched some more. Then
it came "Nuck nuck nuck." "Nuck nuck nuck."
"nuck nuck nuck nuck nuck nuck nuck." The hens fell for
it. They ran over to the gate, jostling each other aside to get
closer to him. Goobie turned his head away, still refusing to admit
he had any idea there were hens there. "Who me? I'm just having
a little snack here. Never mind me. Nuck nuck nuck." When the
promised food failed to materialize, the hens gradually drifted
away again. Goobie nucked again. The hens came running. No food.
The hens wandered off. Goobie nucked
and Jim Laurie live at Frog Pond Farm in Iroquois
County, Illinois, where they grow their own organic produce
and tend to a large flock of rescued chickens and guinea fowl.