After much consideration (read: procrastination), at home chicken training has commenced!
Chickens Little, Precious and Squeak have been chosen from the mob for intensive training in important skills like counter-pecking, card reading and dragon-slaying. Eventually, I hope to get their skills to a level where they will be able to support me in my dotage, working the casinos up and down the east coast.
It’s been hot today – too hot for Tasmanians, and possibly also for little black chickens. Despite adverse conditions, and against all notions of common-sense, we decided to persevere.
The mountains of paper detritus teetering on our lounge room table were swept aside to make way for an old sheet, folded in four, which we draped across the tabletop. The chosen chickens, who’d been busily vandalising the veggie patch, were captured, and brought inside to sit in a holding cage for a bit. Squeak, who’d been panting in the heat all day, continued to do so, despite there being a full bowl of cold water directly in front of her. Little engaged in a small act of chicken protest, sitting down on the floor of the cage and refusing to get up again. Precious squawked irritably at the slightest provocation. So did my partner.
I attempted to boost morale. “Come on guys! This is going to be fun!”
We’d decided to get the chickens out one by one. Precious, seeming most at ease, was first on the table. She froze, pupils dilated, and just stared at us. I tried her on the black sunflower seeds I’d dropped in the metal measuring “treat” cup, and she attacked them with vigour. However, she showed no signs of wanting to move anything from the neck down.
“Put her back in the cage. Next!”
Next was Little. Underneath her slick black plumage, Little was awash with dirt. She’d been plucked from her blissful dustbath in my newly planted flower bed, and hadn’t had a chance to freshen up. She shook herself a little, throwing soil everywhere, then sat down. Black sunflower seeds would not rouse her. She was implacable.
“Righto. Get Squeak.”
Squeak was no better than her predecessors. We decided to get them all out at once, and scatter a few seeds about, to make them feel comfortable.
This level of freak-out was hardly surprising. The chickens only tend to come inside when we’ve left a door open, or occasionally to clean the kitchen floor, and they were certainly unused to sitting on the lounge room table. Also, even in the house, it was still quite hot, and they like heat about as much as the average Tasmanian. And if that weren’t enough, there were two predator animals, with our beady eyes on the front, rather than the sides, of our heads, staring at them in what was probably an unnerving fashion.
We decided just to leave them to hang out on the table for a while, pecking at the seeds in the treat cup, and getting used to the general household ambience. Next time, they won’t get off so lightly.