Chicken Behavior The Ignorant Gal S Guide To Things No Sane Person Would Tell You About Chickens

I’ve learned all sorts of ridiculous things that no one warned me about because these things are so commonplace, experienced chicken keepers don’t...
  1. madwomn
    1000.jpg
    Noodle, contemplating scratching, Pepper, armpit deep in a hole, and Salt, who has just found something that needs excavation.​


    The Ignorant Gal’s Guide to Things No Sane Person Would Tell You about Chickens
    By Mad Woman of the West
    , Mother’s Day. I did everything wrong, usually over and over. I’ve not had my little flock of seven bantams long enough to know anything important. On the other hand, I’ve learned all sorts of ridiculous things that no one warned me about because these things are so commonplace, experienced chicken keepers don’t even consider them. I have become a font of wisdom on reasonless panic, arm waving, and head shaking.First, you should know that I bought my pet chickens over the course of this year, starting May 20th
    If you’re thinking about purchasing or adopting chickens, of course you should spend time on Backyardchickens.com, but you should also read everything you can get your hands on, talk to experienced people, and hang out with someone who has chickens. Let’s face it, though, there are some things you won’t learn any other way than either personal experience or talking to someone like me, who has no shame.
    Thus, for your reading pleasure, here are 10 ridiculous things I’ve learned that will hopefully make your transition into chicken keeping a less harrowing proposition.

    1. My rooster is not epileptic. He just likes the girls and he’s trying to show it. When I saw my first rooster, Chicken Florentine, doing the rooster dance (renamed the “man dance” at my house), I thought he’d developed an exotic kind of epilepsy. What else would make him tremble, squat down, stand up, shake his wings, weave his head side to side, and not stop until Pepper, my mottled D’Uccle lead hen, pecked him on top of the head? Florie, a ½-Cochin, ½-Silkie accidental roo, had the fluffiest pantaloons you’ve ever seen, and he would shake those things like it was going to save his life. The inventors of Youtube probably didn’t foresee that they’d save me thousands of dollars in vet bills, but this is definitely an instance in which typing “rooster dance” into a search bar saved my bank account. It probably saved my vet’s life, too, because he would have laughed himself to death when I re-enacted the problem.
    2. Just because I can’t find the eggs doesn’t mean that my hens aren’t laying. All of my chickens are cast-offs from someone else’s flock in our area. They are all cross-beaked, funny-patterned, long-legged extras, and they all but one grew up in cages. Free ranging in my yard was brand new to all but one of them (my new rooster, Limp Noodle, is still highly suspicious of grass), but they took to it nonetheless. They especially like the euonymous bushes, which grow snug to the ground. I can’t get my own hand under those bushes, but they are now constantly chicken infested. Beautiful new nest boxes in the coop? Check! Solid, comfy, protected, dark nest boxes on the patio? Check! Nests under every godforsaken bush in the yard? Check! Now that molting is over for the fall, I’m armpit deep in a bush with my knees in the mud every afternoon. If you are not yet a religious or at least deeply philosophical person, chickens will almost immediately cause you to contemplate your place in the universe.
    3. Cecal poop will not come off door mats or white shirts, no matter how hard you scrub. Assuming you don’t have chickens yet, let me tell you about cecal poop (pronounced “bleeeeeeeeeeeep!-now-I-have-to-buy-another-white-shirt!”). It’s a combination of rust stain, dinosaur gall bladders, chewing gum, and sulphur that chickens cook up when your back is turned. Even your dogs won’t eat it, and you will never, ever get it off your door mat. The winter sun shines in my sliding glass door, right across the outdoor mat that was intended for boot wiping, but actually keeps my flock’s tootsies warm as they bask in the rays. We tried – really, really tried – to get them to choose another place to warm themselves, but in the end it was easier to use a different door to get into the house from the yard. Please do not tell my mother this. She’s suspicious enough of the whole chicken thing as it is.
    4. Hawks know where I live, even if I live in the city. On Belgian rooster Noodle’s second day in the yard, he had followed the girls over to the roots of the umbrella catalpa. He didn’t understand the whole scratching thing yet, but he was watching with interest, looking at what the girls found and raising an eyebrow at the idea that they ate it instead of walking over to the coop where the recognizable food was. I was standing 10 feet away, sanding the edge of the new nest boxes, talking to my peeps. Suddenly, Salt, the only one of my girls with hawk experience, freaked out, shot straight up into the air, and hit the ground circling like a tornado. I jumped about as high as she did just as a hawk hit the ground right in the middle of where my flock had been standing. Luckily, Salt’s panic had made the rest of the chickens scatter and run under the table where I was standing. By the time I had my hand over my pounding heart, the hawk was headed off into the air again without a chicken in its talons. Now that the leaves are off all of the trees, it’s easier to see into my yard, but it’s also easier for Salt to see the hawks. When I first got her, I thought she was a BIG mistake, because she is bat crap crazy, but it turns out she’s an asset in disguise.
    5. 75% of the pullet chicks I buy will turn out to be roosters. I’m beginning to think I’m cursed. I have even purchased two “girls” from sexed batches who turned out to be roos. The first two I had to give away. They were too noisy, but my gorgeous Noodle only crows first thing in the morning while still inside his coop, or if I’m cleaning the coop and he wants in. His crow is hoarse, quiet, and not complete (more like “cock-a-cough-a-choke-a-doo!”), which makes my neighbors much happier. Florie’s crow was LOUD and any time he was elevated off the ground in the least, he’d let fly. He crowed all day and all night. My second accidental roo, a Modern Game mix named Custard, was re-homed before he started crowing because he talked loudly to himself 24 hours a day. I was terrified that he’d start to crow and it would be insanely loud and he’d do it all day and night. I live in a city that shall not be named where chickens are forbidden in back yards. All I need is a neighbor reporting me.
    6. My flower beds need a lot more holes than I had previously thought. I knew chickens would dig, but I misunderstood exactly how much. My flock is out in the yard from dawn to dusk every day and they spend approximately 239% of that time digging. I just raked all the bark back into my flower beds again today. It’s great exercise, and my plants look like a million bucks, even in the midst of winter, but I’m beginning to be a bit disheartened by my girls’ ability to fixate on a spot and not let it go. I filled in a hole today that was ten inches deep and about twelve inches across. Two weeks ago, I caught two hens in adjacent holes attempting to conduct medieval torture on each other. They were each neck deep in an excavation, pitching dirt in on top of the other. If I hadn’t intervened, they would have either died of exhaustion or buried each other alive.
    7. Even the brain damaged ones can be lovely. One of my hens, a quail D’Anvers named Reeses, was extremely ill when she was small. We dropper-fed her for two weeks while she recovered. Though the diarrhea eventually stopped and she perked up and started to act mostly like a chicken, she walks funny and doesn’t seem to have proper depth perception. She runs crooked and with strange leg movement, holds her head tilted, sneezes every time she drinks because she’s constantly near-drowning herself, and takes two or three tries to get up onto a perch. Even her cluck is a gooselike “SKONK.” On the other hand, though she’s at the bottom of the pecking order, she’s not really bright enough to notice. She’s happy all the time, and as long as you conform to the routines she’s learned, you’d never know that she’s not quite right. Her feathers are the most gorgeous deep, shiny peanut butter and chocolate colors, and she chuckles to herself when you give her a scribble on the neck.
    8. That chick has not just dropped dead when hit by the first rays of the sun. When Reeses was finally well, we put her out into the yard in a jerry-rigged tractor so she could get some sun and socialize with the other chickens. I set her in the sunshine, she took two steps, and fell over on her side with one leg and one wing stiff and her neck skewed over. My college-age daughter, who had shared the two weeks of all-night dropper feedings, burst into tears. Comfort the daughter. Open the tractor. Pick up the chicken, who looks at me as if I’ve just lost my mind. Put the chicken back in the tractor and watch it fall over on its side. Go get the computer. Turns out this is normal and not just Reeses being brain damaged, or worse, incipiently dead. Yet again, Backyard Chickens saves my sanity.
    9. My dogs are not as tough as they seem. I was worried about free-ranging my chickens because I have a terrier and a greyhound who are experienced at killing doves and robins. I know, I know. I can hear you rolling your eyes and thinking that I’m an idiot. Well, neener-neener-neener, because I purchased a mottled black and white D’Uccle lead hen named Pepper who perceives herself as a large, angry tattooed gang member. The first time I let my flock out into the yard, my dogs were standing right with me. Pepper hopped into the grass, the terrier gingerly leaned forward to sniff her, and Pepper leapt to the attack. She took a chunk out of the dog’s left eyebrow and both dogs headed for the house screaming. Pepper looked calmly back into the coop at the other chickens as if to say, “Well? Are you coming?” Everybody else trooped out after her and I haven’t had a single bit of trouble with my dogs since. In fact, it took a loooooooong time to get those dogs back out into the yard while Pepper was out there. That was six months ago and they still have a healthy respect for her.
    10. Warm oatmeal with a little cat food and some fruit scraps causes violence in chickens. I’ve read a lot about what to feed chickens, and my flock has what you might call a varied diet. They always have regular chicken food available, but they also have whatever they can scratch – or dig – up in the yard, a little bit of cracked corn scratch, black oil sunflower seeds, homemade chicken treats made with the Chicken Chick’s recipe, flax seeds, oatmeal, greens of all sorts, kitchen scraps, canned pears, a teeny bit of cat food, and all sorts of other random things that cross my household’s food needs. Their favorite thing by far, however, is when I take ½ a canned pear, a handful of oatmeal, a handful of chicken feed, a little bit of their treats, a little hard cat food, a little scratch, some cut up spinach, and a handful of sprouted wheat, and mix it with hot water. They will drive off the dogs to get to that bowl. If I’ve had to carry the bowl outside to put in the chicken feed because I forgot to take it inside with me, my mille fleur D’Uccle sisters Crème and Caramel have developed a special growling sound they use only in this situation that lets me know that I’m taking too bleeping long to put the bowl on the ground.
    Now that I read back across this list, I can see that I’ve opened myself up for some mocking. That’s OK. I have become a deeply philosophical person due to my chickens and whatever you say, I probably deserve in the cosmic sense, if not the actual. You may have noticed that all of my chickens are named after a type of food. I have come to believe, after much Chicken Zen contemplation while scrubbing the door mat, that the chicken behavior at my house may be some sort of revenge. I accept that, too.
    If you, too, are willing to start with no sense of shame, a deep willingness to embrace the ridiculous, and a high tolerance for standing in place shaking your head in wonderment, by all means, get chickens. And a rake.

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Comments

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  1. Charlie's Chickens
  2. JiltdRoyalty
    Great article!
  3. TheSpiceGirls
    OMG, SOOOOO true. But you forgot about the Preen Gland. I nearly hauled a hen off to the vet to have this very strange growth on her back that she would not stop nibble at, removed. I would have had to find a new vet out of sheer embarrassment after her explaining how totally normal this growth was on her back. Thank goodness for BYC.
      Charlie's Chickens likes this.
  4. spitfire55
    this may be an old true story,i must say you made feel very good today because i just found this section in the backyard chickens and I myself just started raising by babies back in April 2014 and i have learned alot and tell you some of the things mine do ,,,i hope to see and here more stuff like this
  5. HugHess
    Whomever has the misfortune to miss this open invitation to learn the true art of Zen with their flock, will truly miss out on one of the most meaningful PROS of being owned by chickens! I can't wait for mine to play dead in the sunlight, I will look forward to joining them...
  6. ELauraD
    Delightful!
  7. winteree
    what i want to know is about number 8 i have never heard of that or seen it in the time i have been raiseing chickens with my grandma. So i must ask what is it?
  8. KC101
    I really injoyed this....
  9. KC101
    I really enjoyed this. NICE!!!
  10. BinaryChicken
    Wow!! Hilarious! You've had quite the experiences!
  11. mypollitos
    I know exactly how it feels!
    good job great article
  12. sourland
    Well written - a great and enjoyable read.
  13. ChicKat
    thanks for the funny article!
  14. drumstick diva
    Love-love-love your story but, please don't end it here - keep it going, especially need to hear more about Pepper and the gang
  15. cluckcluckgirl
    I love it! It's so true!!
  16. country flock
    Love love LOVE it!!!! So hilariously true!!!!! Thanks for posting it!!!
  17. chickensnewtome
    I thought that was hilarious and I was so bleeping glad that I was not the only one that thought my Rooster was having an epileptic episode!
  18. blondiebee181
    Loved reading this, thanks for the chuckles!!
  19. louy51
    OMGosh, this is so funny. Cracked me up. Loved it.
  20. CherylR
    Haha...fantastic...glad I took a moment to read! Yes, we can all relate!
  21. Old Hens House
    I laughed so hard and long with every subject. Thank you for the entertainment and letting me know that I am not the only Ignorant Gal raising 15 hens for the first time.
  22. susanp970
    Beautiful article, one that I can relate too. Laughing all the way through.
  23. salkxsj
    I thought you were talking about my chickens.lol
  24. Tiffcat
    This was such an enjoyable read! Loved it!
  25. fuzzybutt love
    All so true! LOL. I had no teacher, either...... lots of those kinds of moments :p 3 years in and still shaking my head and learning.
  26. boskelli1571
    Absolutely true to life - marvelously funny! I found myself nodding in agreement while wiping tears from my eyes!!
  27. cheeseball
    Thank You so much for the laugh, I really needed that.
  28. Sam3 Abq
    soooooooooo funny !
  29. KayTee
    Excellent - and so true! Some chicken behaviours are so bizarre it's easy to panic when you see them, until you realise that it's just 'chickens being chickens'!
    Your Reeses sounds a lot like Derperella (possibly the most famous special needs chicken in the world!) - I absolutely love Nambroth's thread about her : http://www.backyardchickens.com/t/563302/derperella-the-weird-faverolles-friends - well worth checking out if you like a laugh and love all chickens, even the 'derpy' ones!
  30. Teena Marie
    Very funny stuff. AND I can relate. Keep the stories coming!
  31. Tacampbell1973
    OMG I swear you could have been describing my last six months...right down to the off beat motley looking flock, mine too. Other peoples cast offs, and some auction birds. Loved to hear that I wasn't the only person out there who temporarily doubted their sanity,...also loved reading your article, you have a wonderful writing style, lighthearted and funny, which the world definitely needs more of. You should check out this forum post about another BYC members' sllightly deranged and totally lovable Salmon Favorelles hen.Derperella, the (weird) Faverolles, & Friends
  32. Barred4Life
    Ha! Great article...funny cuz it's true. Point 1, 2, 5, 6, 8 and 9 especially hit home :) The ray of light thing made me laugh because I remember the first time I let my chickens out...which at that time were only a couple of months old. I come back later and they are all laying over with a wing sprawled out, head on the ground...none of them moving. As I'm walking up to them I'm thinking how could this be?! They all died! Now I know chickens love sunbathing! Hahaha.
  33. Anniebee
    To "madwoman" ..... please, PLEASE write a book - about anything you fancy ( and if that be chickens - so be it ) .... you have an extraordinary flair for writing, and for writing the ridiculous ( no offence intended ) ... which brings gales of laughter from your readers. This was so very funny - and to many, very true. Even to me ( a chicken novice ) ... who has marvelled at the depth a chicken can dig - when out free ranging. Next time we need posts put in the garden, I will let the girls out to do most of the work. What a funny funny story .... and good onya for writing such a hilarious and entertaining piece of literature. Cheers ..... AB
  34. MinxFox
    Great writing and funny too! This was a great read! I have peafowl instead of chickens but some of the things on this list can apply to peafowl too.
    When I first got into peafowl I was amazed at all the different noises they make (other than the classic loud peacock call) and how quiet they are most of the year. I remember when I used to collect every feather they shed big or small and now I mainly just collect the train feathers.
  35. AnneInTheBurbs
    Awesome! Very well written!
  36. Chicken Staff
    I love this article. It's so funny and well written. Please tell us more about your flock in between filling in the holes in your yard.
  37. FowlmouthChick
    This was hysterical and I loved it because I've lived it too! All except the rooster. If only my neighborhood would allow them. And I, too, thought sunshine had caused my chickens to have fits of epilepsy.
  38. Old Hens House
    This was great and I can relate to alot of your stories. Thank you for a good Friday morning and coffee with excellent reading.
  39. Shabana
    You should start a blog ! Loved reading this and would love to read more !
    Congratulations what a fab, funny, and well written read !
  40. MamaDoodle
    I laughed and agreed. Congratulations on your wonderful flock!
  41. One Chick Two
    Splendid, hilarious, and very well written!
  42. Sp0iledFl0ck
    As a first time Chicken-Mom, I can heartily smile and nod at each point. Too funny. Your Pepper cracks me up...and reminds me of a "freebee" Black Sex-link hen I got at the hatchery (also named Pepper). She was pecked bald on her butt, so I kept her in the house in a cage, got her medicated and feathers grown back in. At the hatchery, she was timid, terrified of the other chickens because they harassed her. My fears of introducing her to the flock, or more correctly, the roo and the Alpha hen were quickly alleviated when she proceeded to beat the hell outta the roo AND the Alpha and never looked back. She's the Alpha now, and even the roo doubts his position!
  43. McPhersonFarm
    So great and so true :) Thanks for posting!
  44. jdoane
    Love this!!! You sum it up perfectly!!!
  45. RhapsodyOwens
    This is bleeping hilarious.
  46. Elliemae 77
    Oh my goodness. What a great article!!! Love it!
  47. simplepleasures
    Oh I have giggled all the way through this, my family think I'm mad. Chickens do indeed send us crazy but in a delightful way. Thank you for sharing your musings! :D
  48. Bens-Hens
    Love it, truly laughed out load a few times.
  49. Carolyn252
    That #6 item: they're simply dustbathing to keep their skin in good condition. Gets rid of any bugs, creepy crawlers, ants, etc. BYC has many suggestions on mixing up a variety of items to make a good dustbath (peat moss, sand, wood shavings, top soil, DE, etc., etc.) Whether the "bath" is a mixture you've created for them, or it's just plain ole earth that they've scratched up to create a deep hole that's half filled with freshly scratched up fluffy soil, they'll climb down into it and stretch out their wings and then toss the fluffy stuff all over themselves. They toss it onto their heads, under their wings, onto their upturned bellies, etc., etc. Other hens will stand around waiting their turn, or will simply get fed up with waiting and they go dig up a whole new bath spot.
  50. highaltitudehen
    I love this...and the part about the rooster dance is going to come in handy with our new roo (first time owning one)

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