Sunday, 21 March 2010

Clever Chickens ?

The story below comes from Keeping Chickens Newsletter subscriber Jackie.

Hi Gina - thankyou for sending the chicken newsletters, they are helpful and interesting. have kept chooks for many years, loved them well, but never attributed much in the way of brains to them until recently when I saw something extraordinary happen:

A good friend had two elderly hens remaining from a small flock which had gradually dwindled from old age. His hens, Mrs Red and Mrs Brown, ran free most of the time and came to his door to look for food, especially when he was sitting there in the sunshine enjoying a roll-your-own cigarette. Mrs Red had raised many chickens and was admired as a good mother.

Jack, their owner, decided to do a trip away. He gave Mrs R and Mrs B to me to care for while he was away. They gradually integrated with my hens and rooster, and became part of the flock, especially Mrs Red, who is naturally bossy. She went clucky and raised chickens for me, and generally dominated the hen house.

It was nearly two years before Jack returned. He drove the car up my drive, parked behind the house, and got out. All the hens, about twenty in all, were just let out for their afternoon run, and were clustered round the door to the henhouse, about 20 metres up a hill from Jack's car. Quite suddenly Jack's two detached from the flock and RAN down the hill, straight up to Jack's feet, and looked up expectantly at him. I could almost hear them saying "OK - where's our dinner then?"

Whether it was the car, or Jack's voice, or the smell of his tobacco, or a combination, I dont know, but those hens remembered him perfectly - he had not been at my home while the hens were there, or fed them in that place. They had not done that to any other of the many visitors they had seen arrive over two years. Chooks have more brains than I thought!


Cheers, Jackie, North Hokianga, NZ

5 comments:

Nancy said...

We had quite a similar experience with our little roo Mr. Chuckers. The friends that had given him to us came by for a visit about a year and a half after we had taken him. When they came up in the yard, he started crowing up a ruckus! He had never acted that way before and we were sure it was his recognition of his former owners. Most people don't believe that chickens can make that connection, but they definitely can!

nancy w. said...

i have a chicken that pecks hir eggs and has eaten one .
whatdo i do.
thanks nancy

Gina said...

There are a few popular methods for stopping egg eating, mostly involving some kind of trickery such as false eggs, or making them taste bad - I had a
little bit on egg eating in the April 08 Newsletter which may help.
The ideal thing is to collect any eggs before they get a chance to peck at them (or have an egg catching nestbox - there is a video of how to make one here : Egg Catching Nestbox) . There is no one 'cure all' method so it is a case of trying some of the different methods and hopefully one will do the trick.

-robertw said...

Sticking to the subject matter of clever chickens, I have a tale.

Our little flock of 11 hens and no rooster recently got decimated by visiting raccoons. It took several incidents for dimwitted me to come up with the solution, a bolt on the coop door and put them to bed every night.

One hen is the boss, never lays eggs, always gets out of the yard and generally is in charge. She now comes up on our deck every evening just before dark and pecks at the door. She doesn't leave until I come out, catch her, carry her to the coop and lock them all in. She's never done this before, and it's obvious she is putting herself at risk (did mention the Westies that live in our house?) to get me to put the remaining brood to bed properly. Not only smart beyond any normal understanding, but selfless behavior as well.

I don't know how to tell them I'm so sorry I let 5 of them die before figuring out what needed to be done.

PS: this looks like and Aussie/NZ blog. I'll be in Golden Bay early next year.

Robert in Corvallis, OR

Anonymous said...

I had a black austrolorpe rooster that used to put all the hens in the coop when a coyote came around, then go back out and make all sorts of noise to drive them towards him instead of the hens. He did this quite a lot until unfortunalty he was taken by one.