Over the past few weeks I’ve noticed personalities develop in the flock. We all know that there will be one alpha male and female, as well as one or two that will be “henpecked.” But nothing much is said about the other personalities that may show up in a flock. Just watching their antics have given me a little insight about the boys and girls.
One I’ve noticed in the evening is a hen that we’ve dubbed “the census keeper.” Each night she stands to one side of the chicken door to the coop and waits for everyone to make it inside. I can just almost hear her say, “Good evening, welcome home!” to everyone. And she is usually the first one out of the door in the mornings. If we wait too long to let them out in the mornings, we get a mouth- … er … make that a beakful! … of noise while she exits.
Cogburn, one of our roosters, has taken the job of sentry. Throughout the day he will walk the perimeter and check out what’s outside the fence. If one of the dogs goes anywhere near the fence Cogburn is one of the first ones there. He is also the one to sound the alert when a predator flies overhead. With a sort of strangled chirp that he has right now, he lets everyone know to run. And they run right under the coop as a whole. They do the same when the sun comes out from behind the clouds. It’s funny to hear him give the warning, because he just hasn’t mastered the crow yet. He tries, but it sounds pathetic. We love him anyway.
Another rooster, who we named Hopper, hops around and tries to flirt with the ladies. He’ll jump on them and get in their faces, and right up in the lens of our camera. This ladies’ man is good at his job already but sometimes comes into a little resistance from the biggest hen we have. She makes sure everyone knows she’s the big momma around the pen.
We haven’t named her because she will make the dinner cut in time. As with any hierarchy, there are Top Chickens and the Lower Peons. So far we haven’t had a problem with bullying all that much. Which I’m very surprised about. We give the kids a lot to play with, such as things to climb on and things to push around the pen. There are a few stumps that are in the process of being uprooted that they love to scratch at. It’s a good place to dig up critters. We also put a huge timber, with tons of nooks and crannies, in the pen. I like to put treats and grass clippings in there. That will occupy a few of them for hours. Maybe this is why they aren’t picking on one another. They are to0 busy to bully. Works for me!
From the very first day we started building the coop, Jim told me not to name many of the chickens. Giving something a name gives it a place in your heart, and my Jim knows me well. I have a big heart for almost any animal, and he knew if I named them all we would never be able to have chickens in the freezer. Some other chicken owners ask me how I could think about such a thing. Most of them treat their chickens as pets and only pets. While I love my boys and girls, I do realize that they are a form of self-sufficiency. And they are, by tradition, a way to provide fresh food for a family. But, as I explained to my friends, that doesn’t mean I love them any less. They’re going to provide me with food. Why shouldn’t I love them?