Egg egg eggs

Hens lay eggs even when they don’t live with a rooster.  This is the most common question I get from chickenless folks.  Hens go through the process of ovulation and egg laying every day, whether they’re gettin’ any or not.  Ladies, I’m sure you can sympathize with a creature that has to have her period every single day for years on end.

Earlobes?!

The color of chicken eggs depends on the breed of chicken.  Egg color does not determine nutritional value.  The general rule is that chickens with white earlobes lay white eggs and chickens with red or brown ear lobes lay brown eggs.  Some chickens, called Americana or Araucana lay ‘Easter eggs’ in blue and green shades.

Filthy birds

Chickens get dirty to get clean.  In order to protect themselves from mites and clean their feathers, chickens take dust baths.  They’ll loosen up the soil forming a pit, then they jump in and roll around, fluffing up their feathers and shaking about.  Once they’ve had enough, they hop out of the pit, walk over to you, and shake every bit of soil and filth right in your face.  Maybe they think humans need dust baths too.

Gross

These guys have my vote for grossest anatomy of any creature.  I bet most of you don’t know that the eggs you eat come out of something called a cloaca or vent.  This opening serves not only as a chicken vagina, but urine and feces shoot out of it too.  A real multifunctional orifice.  Omelet anyone?

Gizzards Galore

Speaking of gross anatomy… chooks also use something called a gizzard to chew their food.  They obviously don’t have teeth, so they swallow their food whole, where it’s stored in their throat hole in the crop.  The birds swallow small bits of sand and stone that act like teeth in the gizzard to grind the food up into tiny bits.  Just imagine how horrifying humans would be if we processed our food in the same way.

Patio Raptors

I named the chicken section of this blog ‘patio raptors’ for a good reason.  Chickens are the closest known descendants to the Tyrannosaurus Rex.  Keeping them in our backyard is very much like having a bunch of tiny dinos take over your property.  You can see the resemblance in a very scary way when they run at full speed.  Imagine the part of Jurassic Park with the T-Rex chasing the jeep, except scaled down about 500 percent.  Little Carl is our sprinter, she leans way forward, with her head close to the ground and her fluffy butt in the air and stomps at full speed to her destination.  She runs everywhere she goes, and is usually yelling at the same time.  Much like myself as a five year old.

Tasty Morsels

Chickens are omnivores.  They’ll eat practically anything.  I mean, anything.  The only thing I ever saw them ignore was an artichoke, and I think that’s because they didn’t know the glory of the insides.  We call them ‘our little food recyclers.’  Anything that isn’t consumed by us, the dog, or the cat, gets tossed into the chicken run.  We feed them old smooshy veggies, stale bread, chunks of meat that are almost bad, lumpy yogurt, old bananas, they will even eat their own eggs, including the shell if one happens to break in their midst.  The only thing I don’t feed them is chicken (although some people do).  The creep out factor gets to me.  I can just see them turning into little chicken zombies with crazy eyes from eating their dead cooked cousins.  No thanks.  We usually save up a few days worth of goodies and toss it out to them. It’s hilarious to see them come running from all over to scratch through it all and take possession of the goodies.  When one bird finds something AMAZING, she’ll grab it and go running with it, desperately searching for a private place to chow down.  The other chooks obviously see this act of desperation and give chase.  The tasty morsel gets passed to and fro, each chicken managing to take little bits of it until it’s gone.

Chicken Overlords

Chickens outnumber humans three to one on this planet.  Now, let’s be veeeeerrryyy nice to our bird friends so one day when they manage to form superior intelligence and take over the world, they will spare the groveling humans.

Chook Talk

Chooks have their own language.  Chickens make over 30 different sounds and each bird and flock has its own tone.  Different sounds can mean: There’s a predator in the air! There’s a predator on the ground! I found something delicious over here! I just laid an egg!  Get the hell out of my nest!  Oh my god, I’m lost, I’M LOST, I DON’T KNOW WHERE I AM!!!  As you can see, chickens are very dramatic creatures that are big into exclamations.

The egg song

Many hens make a big ol’ racket every day when they announce to the world that they are indeed going inside to lay an egg.  Some people call this ‘the egg song’

Mister Rooster

Most roosters are downright gentlemanly creatures.  When new food is served they make a lovely ‘took took took’ sound to call their harem of hens over.  I’m not even kidding, they’re called a harem. Ever a believer in ‘ladies first,’ the roo waits until everyone is eating before taking a bite.  Roosters also spend the vast majority of their time protecting the flock.  They constantly scan the land and sky for predators while the ladies gossip and stuff their faces.

The Hierarchy of Chickendom

They have a hierarchy of bossiness, a pecking order, if you will.  This term was actually coined to describe flock behavior.  Every flock has a bird at the top and a bird at the bottom, and every other chook fits into the ladder in some specific place.  The order is established during mating season, times of stress, and addition or loss of birds.  In our flock, when our two foster birds arrived, it was total mayhem.  Everyone had to fight for their established positions.  Each bird would challenge the newcomers by sprinting up to their face and staring them down. If the newcomer stared back, the chest bumping would begin, which would then escalate to scratching and yelling.  Much like the drunken fight you saw last weekend at the bar.  The fighting would continue between each member of the flock.  Whichever bird gives up first is lower on the ladder.  Lower birds get pecked if they dare to approach the food before the head hen has graced the feeder.  Our original head hen, Little Carl fought her way back to the top in this transition, and still remains more powerful than our poor rooster.  His masculinity was crushed by her scrappiness.   It’s easy to tell who’s at the top.  She’s the first to eat, and the others tend to follow her lead.  If she decides it’s time to go to bed, everyone else follows.  The bird on the bottom is the last to eat.  She’s forced to scurry around the chowing flock, grabbing bits of grub wherever she can.   She gets the crappiest places to sleep at night, and everyone generally thinks she sucks.  Sound harsh?  It is.  Now think about the human behavior at your place of employment.

So long for now, Happy trails to you, until we meet again…

Meredith

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