Monday, March 7, 2011

Chicken on My Head

No lie.  I popped out to the coop this morning to take care of my birds and Ed decided it was a good day to have a little visit.  She hopped up to my shoulder and stood there for a few minutes, pecking at the tassel on my hat, until I decided that I had better move her before one of us got hurt.  Instead of flying away when I put my hand under her feet, she let me move her down so that I could hold her at chest level and pet her for a few minutes.

Ed is unique among my birds in allowing this kind of familiarity.  Most of them are happy enough to see me because they know I usually bring food.  They perpetuate my good behavior by running toward me (as much as they can, considering the fencing) when I come out side, so that if I am treatless I feel compelled to go get a snack to avoid disappointing them. Even so, when I walk into the coop they typically back up or leave, probably out of some primal fear that I'm in the mood for chicken soup.

Sunny Sunflower occasionally makes an exception to this rule, but only for the purpose of pecking my boots (or my back side, if I'm foolish enough to squat down too close to her beak) in order to shoo me away.

Publicity photo of Sunny "Red" Sunflower, c.2010

Ed, however, has cultivated a relationship with us.  It began awkwardly enough. 

File photo of Ed as a baby, back in the days when she was known as Lily.  Or Daisy.  I'm not sure which of the two was her original name.  Just like I'm not sure whether she is the chick on the left or the right.
Despite her beautiful plumage,


Ed has a scissor-beak, which makes it a little more difficult for her to eat.


We had to set up a different feeder for her and she spends a lot more time pecking away at it than the other birds do.  We're pretty sure that she always has food on her mind, and as soon as she sees one of us approaching with food refills, she stations herself near the coop door to make sure she doesn't miss us.  From waiting politely near the door (which is where her feeder is), she progressed to standing in (or on) her feeder, and then to jumping onto the jar of refill food while we were pouring it into the feeder.  For a while, she would ambush us, launching herself at us and flapping wildly in our faces before we were even inside the coop.  Our instinct was to get out of her way, but after the first time she escaped the coop, we  learned that we would have  to stand our ground if we didn't want to spend the next half hour chasing her around the yard.

Lately, though, she has been more mature. She still jumps, but she has learned to land on our hands instead of aiming for our faces, and she accomplishes this with a lot less flapping, which keeps us from freaking out and flapping back at her.  Still, this morning's visit was a pleasant surprise.  It felt almost friendly, from her steady grip on my shoulder to the gentle way she investigated my hat. Chickens are not a pet you choose for emotional fulfillment, but when one breaks the rules of professional detachment, I can't help enjoying the attention.  It's got me thinking about specially engineering a hat that would hold chicken treats and protect my scalp at the same time, and wondering what this oddball chicken will do next.

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