Good day chickenfolk. Have been on here a few times to get advice but now I'm a card-carrying member.
We got our Rhode Island Reds almost two years ago from a local farm supply store. Started with three but one needed "freezer therapy" at about eight months due to a mean streak. I'm talkin' blood spattered on the coop walls mean. We tried segregation but once she was put back in with the other hens, the blood flowed again. Broke our hearts to end her life but there wasn't much of an option. And, she didn't go to waste.
Since then, our remaining two, Phoebe and Peaches have been happy-go-lucky, eggs-every-day hens. We have them in a chicken tractor big enough for six, plus we have movable fencing so they can have a big yard (about 650 square feet) to peck around in wherever their house has been moved. Phobe is a big, rather statuesque hen and is definitely "Top Hen" of the coop. She's largely a benevolent leader, but the other hen makes it easy by being a very accommodating follower. Peaches is small and squat but a real sweetie. And a little talker. She's a always the first to come a greet us and the first to settle down for some lap time. Both are lap chickens. Not sure how usual that is but they both like to hop onto our laps and settle down for a while. It's become almost a daily ritual. And we haven't been pooped on yet! We've learned they don't particularly like being petted or touched, but they like to be close. We also take them for regular, if not daily, chick-walks (flock walks) outside their fence and around the place. When the bugs are out, most especially grasshoppers, this is an exciting time for all and everyone (hens at least) come home with full crops. I believe the hens think the bugs come out of out feet because they stay close watching for the ones that hop away. We've had all kinds of adventures with little snakes, frogs and mice too.
I am hugely struck by the amount of personality in a chicken. I had no prior experience with them and, like many I suppose, hadn't given them much credit for intelligence or any pet-like qualities at all. Boy was I wrong. They aren't feathered Einsteins by any means, but they have a natural and intense ability to observe and figure stuff out. We live on a small farm and way out in the country. When any large bird is flying overhead, the hens see it before we do and get to cover ASAP. They are fun to watch when they get themselves into a minor pickle and figure out how to get themselves out. Our biggest surprise is how affectionate they can be, with us and each other. We decided that we will keep them for as long as they are healthy and happy, even after their egg laying is done.
A final funny (I think anyway) and poignant story. Every once in a while I get this unstoppable urge to pick up a chicken. They don't particularly like it but submit without much worry. I try to hold their wings, of course, but once, Phoebe got hers free and flapped a little. I then sort of jogged around, holding her with my arms outstretched. Pheobe then stretched her neck forward and her stubby little wings out as far as they went and soared! She seemed to find it great fun. It was kind of sad to think that their flying instinct is still so strong yet that ability is pretty much bred out of them. Not that I'd want them flying away, of course.
Edited by New Flockman - 12/9/11 at 4:24am