[FONT=comic sans ms,sand]I love, love, love our chickens. I don't know how I survived before they came into my life. They weed my gardens, eat bugs, dethatch the lawn, break down the fall leaves so more fit into the composter, give me eggs every day to use and share, and provide free entertainment by the hour. Watching them interact is like watching the world at large and sitting there with my cup of coffee I can contemplate answers to every conflict known to man. What makes them content? Food, shelter, water, safety. Ah, but then why do they run their beaks across the fencing every afternoon like unhappy jailbirds? Freedom, of course, even though it could include a little danger. So, out they come, to free-range for a while, not knowing what they'll find, or what might find them. (Actually, we're in the city, so they're quite safe, but they don't know that) But its worth the unknown to them. They come out fast, talking up a storm. Ahhh, freedom. First they run to the dog's water dish and take big gulps of water. They have plenty in the pen, but have to peck at it. Here they can be greedy and messy and water splashes everywhere. Then its off to the flower beds. Hmmmmm, worms? grubs? new shiny green weeds? Theirs for the taking, just a scratch here, a poke there. What did you find? Everyone runs over to see a special prize, the finder running away before someone else can snatch it away. Running, flapping, squawking, losing the prize to someone running and flapping faster. The youngsters come out a little more cautiously, a peck here or there, looking around, hunching slightly as if ready to flee at a moment's notice. The littlest upset sends them scurrying back into the safety of the pen. Then the bravest of the lot pokes her head out and the others follow. If I have to reprimand one of the ladies for being a bully to the little ones, she tells everyone on the block of her indignation. "What?" she cries. "What, what, what." She cannot believe I'd mortified her in such a mannor in front of her friends. I pet her and all is forgiven, but the lesson is learned, and she gives the youngsters wide berth. Then the busy work is done, break time, and everyone finds a place for a dust bath. Some like communal bathing, others find a quiet spot all alone. Some choose sun, others a cool bit of shade. The quail, stuck in their pen, stand at the fence and watch, living vicariously through the hens. The turtle watches for a while, sunning himself on a rock, then slips quietly into the pond with nary a splash. Olympic judges would have to give him a 10. The bang of the front door tells me its time to start dinner. Yikes, I've got to herd the ladies back into their home. I call to them, "chicks, chicks, chicks." They come running, knowing full well I've got their dinner in my hands. We're having c-h-i-c-k-e-n for dinner tonight. But not one of our beauties. I doubt we'll ever cook one of them. I know them too well, now. [/FONT]