This time last year when the Dashwoods were still only an idea, I vaguely knew that in winter I’d have to go out and take care of them. I pictured being bundled up, tossing a bit of fresh bedding in the coop, giving them food and water and that’s it. Fifteen minutes, tops. In my mind it was never windy and never -4F/-15C, everything was neat and tidy and efficient.
I suppose it is good that imagining something doesn’t always equate to the reality because if it did, we might choose to do otherwise. Today we have actually warmed up to 12F/-11C and while there is a bit of a breeze we are, at least, in the double digits above zero F instead of below like we have been for most of the last week.
Bookman and I ventured out to the farm store to get more bedding for the coop. Bookman scooped out the top messy layer of bedding from one side and I worked on the other. My position was inside the run with the Dahswoods. I was wearing my snow boots to keep my feet warm instead of my usual wellies. My snow boots have laces. The Dashwoods have never seen shoelaces before and they thought they looked really interesting. As I am trying to scoop poop they are all around my feet having a go at the laces —Giant worms on her feet!!!
They got one boot completely untied and were taking turns trying to run off with the prize. No amount of Stop it! from me deterred them. I left the run with the laces dragging, hoping to get away from the Dashwoods so I could re-tie my boot. But the trailing worms were ever so enticing and they leapt at my feet as I was trying to get away. Even as I had my foot lifted up on the compost bin tying the laces, Elinor kept jumping at them since they were waving around and taunting her. They thought it was all a great fun game. And it was funny.
Except now they were all out of the run and scurrying into the garden toward the deck. Bookman and I ignored them just so we could finish with the coop. That done, Bookman refilled their food and started to hang up a cabbage for them in the run. I took their water container up to the house to fill it. But I noticed Margaret and Marianne had gone AWOL. Then I heard clucking coming from under the deck. There is snow piled up on all sides of the deck, how did they get under there?
While I am inside filling the water, Bookman is trying to get them all back to the run. I walk out the door with the water to hear Bookman exclaiming about Marianne and Margaret being under the deck. They had slipped in through the opening between the steps. Now, frequently when I call the Dashwoods they ignore me unless I have a treat for them. But Bookman, he seems to be a chicken whisperer because he had no treats and when I started toward the garden after getting the water set up in the run, here comes Bookman walking down the path with four chickens clustering around his feet. He’s the Pied Piper of Chickens!
I waggled a leaf of cabbage at them and they came running. I tossed it into the run where they pounced on it and then discovered there was a whole cabbage hanging up for their enjoyment. We closed them up and scurried into the house because the two of us were cold, cold, cold and Bookman couldn’t feel his fingers. We are all very much looking forward to spring I can tell you that!
Earlier last week I found a fascinating article about chickens and how smart they are. Dumb as the Dashwoods seem sometimes, they are rather clever in ways I did not expect. The article explains that chickens can count. They can also remember the trajectory of a hidden ball for up to 180 seconds, very similar to most primates.
They also possess self-control and will hold out for a better food reward. And they can assess their position in the pecking order. Both of these things indicates a level of self-awareness. Chickens perceive time and can anticipate future events. And they can solve problems.
Their communication is more complex than many realize. They have at least 24 distinct vocalizations and a number of visual displays used to communicate information. In addition they experience both positive and negative emotions including fear, anticipation and anxiety. Chickens possess empathy too. Chickens have distinct personalities, as the Dashwoods have shown me so well, and they can deceive one another as well as watch and learn from each other.
Nothing in the article is a complete surprise at this point, but it is nice to have confirmation of things I have observed especially since Bookman sometimes accuses me of anthropomorphizing the Dahswoods. What a pleasure they are, even when we have to go out in the frigid cold to take of them!
Now y’all mark April 4, 2073 on your calendars because you are invited to come watch me set a cycling world record. On Wednesday last week Robert Marchand of France set a world distance cycling record of 22.547 kilometers in one hour. No, that isn’t very far especially if you are pro cyclist Bradley Wiggins who set a distance record of 54.526 in 2015. What’s so special about Marchand? He’s 105 years old.
Five years ago he set the over age 100 distance record. This time around a new category was created just for him. Mr. Marchand is not a former pro cyclist. He cycled when a young man and a coach told him he would never amount to anything. There were a stretch of years in which he didn’t cycle at all and then he took it up again at age 68. Just goes to show you are never too old to do exciting things or set athletic records!
Remember 2073, I’ll be 105 and I am going for the record. If you don’t think you can make that one, I’ll be going for the over 100 record in 2068. I’d love to have you come cheer me on if you can make it. I’ll make sure there is a party afterwards with plenty of delicious treats, including an awesome birthday cake, and lots of time to chat. See you then!