Sep 1, 2010
What do they do?
The girls get up early in the morning. We know this because the lights in their henhouse turn on at 5:00 am. We know this because we set up the lights and timer, about 2 weeks ago, to compensate for the shortening days of late summer. It seems that a chicken's natural laying cycle naturally tapers off and stops in the fall when they molt, and begins again in the lengthening days of spring. 14 hours of daylight is the minimum amount needed to insure continued laying, which occurs around August 15 in our latitude. As much as I would like to give the ladies their natural winter break ...... we have a farm to run here. Well, ok, it's a bit of a stretch to call it a farm. But the fact remains that 4 out of the 6 girlies have not even started laying yet -- though I expect they will be mature enough quite soon. And I don't want them all to quit before they have fairly begun. Plus, I'm thinking chicken feed. Which is not super expensive, but on paper, anyway, we did get these chickens in order to provide us with some food. I would rather not support them purely as pets for a whole year before we get a good supply of eggs. Thus the lights.
But the mystery remains: what do they do out there, in the early mornings, when it is still dark outside, but the lights are on in the hen house? I get up early too, and can see the house and run from my desk. I see movement going on inside the house, through the little access door at the bottom. Farmer Don and I have been discussing this lately, and have come up with a number of theories.
I'm sure the ladies were as surprised as anything when the light started going on so bright and early. I'm sure the first few days, they hopped down from their perch, all ready to go outside and start scratching for bugs (their motto: We Are Always Busy!). But wait -- what's this?! It's DAAAAARRRRRRKKKKKKK out there. Now what?
We pictured them scratching their little heads (with their feet -- I have seen them do this, really I have) and talking it over. My first thought, being a knitter myself and having serious thoughts of winter scarf creation starting in my own head, was that they had taken up knitting. Farmer Don pointed out that they have no hands, and there is no evidence of knitting needles in the henhouse. Plus, it has probably occurred to them that their own feathers will keep them warm, thus they have no need for a wool scarf.
Our next idea was that they might have started some kind of discussion group. Possible topics of discussion might include:
Tasty Bugs I have Eaten ("I don't know about you girls, but I just LOVE earwigs!")
Food ("Wow, that new layer feed is great, isn't it? I just LOVE the pellets.")
Weather ("What's with the rain? -- this is supposed to be summer.")
Eggs ("Did you see my eggs? Bet YOU can't lay a green one")
But it seemed limited. By now, they may have moved on to philosophy: Hegel vs Kant. But in my honest opinion chickens are far smarter than that, and have far better things to think about. And we are pretty sure they don't speak German, so it's probably not that either.
Bible study? Just what we need: born-again chickens! Quickly we searched the henhouse for the King James Version but didn't turn up anything, nor did we find a Koran or any other religious literature, so we don't think that's it.
Finally, this morning, I think I have figured it out. They really are moving around in there. So I'm pretty sure our chickens have an early morning exercise class: chick-aerobics! or possibly Pulletes......
Uh oh, gotta go now. The most spoiled chickens in the world are calling me outside for their morning treats. Oh, and did I mention that we are now getting 2 eggs a day? Hawkeye, our Ameraucana, started laying nice green eggs a couple of days ago. Here's a comparison photo of one of Betty's first efforts and a regular grocery store egg. Yes, Betty's egg is small, but look at the orange yolk and tall, perky white! Neener!