Looking for something a little different? You might want to read a thoughtful and entertaining article, Pecking Order, by Peter Lennox a senior lecturer in spatial perception in artificial environments at the University of Derby.

Lennox keeps a flock of chickens in his yard and the article is about the things he has learned about chickens and people. He notes:

Watching chickens is a very old human pastime, and the forerunner of psychology, sociology and management theory. Sometimes understanding yourself can be made easier by projection on to others. Watching chickens helps us understand human motivations and interactions, which is doubtless why so many words and phrases in common parlance are redolent of the hen yard: “pecking order”, “cockiness”, “ruffling somebody’s feathers”, “taking somebody under your wing”, “fussing like a mother hen”, “strutting”, a “bantamweight fighter”, “clipping someone’s wings”, “beady eyes”, “chicks”, “to crow”, “to flock”, “get in a flap”, “coming home to roost”, “don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched”, “nest eggs” and “preening”.

The tone of the article is light but Lennox makes some serious observations about chickens that would do use humans some good to pay attention to. I think my favorite if this one:

Everyone should have a place in the pecking order. Strive for your place in life, not someone else’s. Someone else’s bread isn’t necessarily tastier than your own. Envy will cost you dearly.

Residents of Minneapolis can apply for a permit to keep chickens. You have to take a class and get the permission of your immediate neighbors and jump through a few official hoops, but from what I have heard, there is a small but growing contingent of people who have a few chickens.

One of my neighbors two years ago had about six chickens and a rooster. They live across the street and four houses down. We had no idea they even had the birds until it got warm enough to leave the windows open at night. On morning we were awoken by a crowing rooster. The rooster also liked to crow in the afternoon and sometimes in the evening. Since Bookman and I are early risers we never minded the rooster. I actually loved hearing it crow and when on some mornings I didn’t hear him I was very disappointed.

One evening when we were walking the dog the chickens had managed to escape from the backyard. I don’t know what breed they were but they were huge. And they were surprisingly fearless too. One of the younger children who live there, he was probably about seven or eight, was trying to herd them (can one herd chickens?) back into their enclosure and the chickens were having none of it. They completely ignored him. It took the boy’s mom to get them to move.

Sadly, at the end of the summer we found out that they had gotten rid of the rooster because he was rather aggressive. I’ve never seen the hens out loose again. I miss that rooster and even suggested to Bookman that we keep some chickens since they’d be good for the garden. But he talked some sense into me. We don’t eat eggs, and really, did I want all the work of taking care of them? I guess not. But someday, when my life isn’t so busy I would still love to have a couple of chickens. And a rooster.

One more chicken story. When we still lived in California we were stopped at a gas station somewhere in the San Fernando Valley, can’t remember where exactly anymore. I was sitting in the car idly looking out at the street while Bookman was filling the gas tank. When what do I see? A chicken on the sidewalk. I watched it as it very slowly made its way out into the street. I feared for its life and fervently hoped there would be no car drive by and hit it. Miraculously, not a single car came by. The chicken crossed the road and disappeared into the grass and weeds of a vacant lot.

Bookman didn’t see any of it. When he got in the car I asked, “Why did the chicken cross the road?” He just looked at me. “To get into the vacant lot!”

“What?” said he.

I explained about the chicken. He only half believed me until we were pulling out of the station and saw another chicken on the sidewalk getting ready to cross the road.