Fun and games
PUBLISHED: 19:45 14 May 2014
The recent weather has been extreme but, as the Welsh coast was being demolished by waves and the rivers were flooding the fields, my chickens were playing children's games.
It started with off-ground tig. The chickens have a detailed daily route that covers the garden, orchard, vegetable patch and field, and it takes more than mere gales and floods to stop them. They doggedly continued with their routine, but now they were determined to complete the circuit without touching the ground. The whole flock balanced solemnly along raised beds, garden furniture and fences. It took me longer than it should have done to realise what they were up to.
Chickens do not like walking through the gelatinous, toffee-like mud formed after two months of rain. Most chickens would probably simply have stayed in the reasonably dry areas, but my stubborn birds were not going to be thwarted from their usual routine and so invented this ingenious method of getting around their territory while keeping their feet clean.
The next game I noticed was hide and seek. The smaller hens would hop up into the lower branches of the mimosa tree and spend hours there, almost completely hidden from view. I could understand them wanting to keep their feet dry, but why not sit on a bench or gate out in the open? Cockerels were the cause. The mild weather during the rain had caused one hen to go broody, and now it was affecting the cockerels. Four amorous young cocks were pursuing the younger hens with a single aim in mind, and the hens didn’t like it at all. By hiding in the tree they were safe
from the cockerels (even the most determined cockerel can’t perform while balanced on a thin branch) and the hens could still see everything that was going on.
The third game my hens indulged in was a brief but impressive session of king of the castle. Two of my bantams flew up onto the greenhouse and shouted taunts and insults at the chickens left on the ground. Over the next few days this behaviour was repeated every morning - the cockerels were trying their luck again.
If these are our winter games, I can’t begin to imagine what the chickens have in mind for spring…