“If it’s possible to ruin a chicken in such a way, I’m sure you’ll do it.”
These are the words my husband spoke to me after I told him a story in which I was worried I was maybe spoiling our chickens a little too much.
Here’s what has happened of late:
Each morning, before I collect eggs, the chicky girls get a bagel, and it can be tricky to get 17 chickens to be “fair” when it comes to bites of bagel. I developed a system where I throw exactly 12 pieces into the middle of the chicken run, and while about 10 or 12 girls head to eat those, a handful hangout with me, knowing I will drop some at my feet for them. This plan has been working well for almost a year.
But I think the “spoiledness” reached new heights a couple of weeks ago. The girls who hang out at my feet for bagel bites will squawk at me until they get a bite of bagel, and I noticed that a couple of girls just kept squawking and looking at me hopefully, even though I had dropped bites of bagel on the ground right in front of them.
It looked like they wanted me to feed them directly, so I tried that. Guess what? It’s what they wanted!
But, then, because chickens are copy cats, like 3 or 4 other girls wanted the same treatment, so I was trying to get bites of bagels into beaks as quickly as I could and trying not to get my fingers pinched.
Thankfully, after about a week of this routine, the girls are now really good at aiming for bagel only and not my fingers, and it’s pretty adorable to see these girls jumping up like little chicken basketball players to get their bites out of my fingers. But, the sad reality is that I think our girls might be too spoiled.
This morning, I think things reached a new level. Today, I had about 6 or 7 little chicky girls, in a line, jumping up one at a time to get her bagel bite. The girls took turns, jumped up like little basketball-playing chickens, flapped their wings once for each jump, and looked so adorable I almost couldn’t believe it.
I have no idea how this just happened, but if I can get this to happen again (tomorrow, I am going to try to get my husband to film this), I have decided that I might need to take this show on the road—“Crystal and Her Amazingly Spoiled Chickens.”
Still, my husband’s comment about how I will find a way to spoil animals as well as my experiences this week really got me to thinking about how this is happening. I mean, it would be much easier for me if these girls would just eat their bagel bites off of the ground. Is it okay that these girls are this spoiled?
So I spent a couple of weeks mulling this over, and after much thought about my thinking, I realized what might be at the root of my track record with spoiled animals.
If an animal is smart enough to communicate with me, an animal of a completely different species, its wants and needs, I feel it is important to reward such intelligence and skills. And, since science is proving all the time that animals are way smarter than people thought, smarter than I thought, I find myself with a lot of spoiled animals.
I will continue my reading on animal intelligence and maybe have to rethink my philosophy about how I approach our animals and their level of intelligence. I don’t think I have been giving them enough credit, and I had better do something. We have 8 more little girls growing up right now, and if I have to feed 25 chicky girls grapes and bagels individually, that’s going to be a job!
But I have to say that my husband is not a complete innocent here. One night this week, I caught him out in the garage with the baby girls. He was whistling a sweet tune to them and giving them the meal worms he bought from the pet store with each little baby jumping up to take a worm from his fingers. Indeed!
It’s all coming together for me. I might know the root of the “feed me individual bites” thing. It’s not going to be easy not spoiling those chickens. Maybe I just need to be okay with spoiling them.