Sunday, February 26, 2012

Bird Brain?

Brie with "Chewy"
When Brie and I embarked on our adventures in chicken keeping, granted, we plunged rather blindly into the abyss of the unknown.

We had no idea, for example, how engaging they would be, how little work they would require, and how much fun it would be to collect those yummy eggs.

Nor did we know that we would come up against a few challenges during snow storms (digging out tunnels for them to walk through), keeping them safe from predators (darn raccoons!), and from each other when they got bored (see our Bare Bottom post for details below).

We also knew little, if not nothing, about birds. After all, we were dog people, BIG dog people, not bird people. But, the more we observe and get to know our chickens, the more amazed we are at their intelligence. Unlike the popular idiom, "bird brain," would suggest, birds actually have a sophisticated communication system, and are capable of feelings, showing distress when one of their own is harmed, and establishing a hierarchy of relationships within the flock (aka "pecking order").

Beatrice (left) and Goldilocks (right)
are our queens of the flock.
We've witnessed first hand the affection they show toward us, such as the soft trill sound they make when we hold them close and stroke their feathers, and their cleverness at getting exactly what they want, aka, FOOD!

And we've chuckled at their antics when interacting with each other on any given day, whether free ranging in the yard, or competing for the cauliflower we've hung for them to much on.

I came across this video while perusing websites about chicken keeping this morning. Apparently, there's been quite a bit of research conducted within the past five years, driven largely to build a case against factory farming for confining hens to inhumane battery cages.

In the interest of sharing and dispelling the myth of the proverbial bird brain, have a look at this short clip, featuring animal behaviorist, Jonathan Balcome. Enjoy!