Who says chickens are dumb?
They may not know a sonata from a siesta, but they're really good at being chickens. Take, for example, Gracie, Lulu and Strider, the three Lavender Orpington chicks in our brooder at CLUCK the Chicken Store. They will be four weeks old this week and they know things that are important to chickens.
Like the orange fly swatter. Call them Pavlov's chickens, but when we approach their cage carrying the orange flyswatter, they go nuts, jumping around and peeping their little heads off. Why? Because sometimes when we swat a fly (Paoli is infested!) we drop it into their brooder box as a little snack for them. Boy, do they go wild pecking and chasing until one of them manages to swallow the prize. So they quickly learned to associate the flyswatter with a tasty snack. If a visiting child carries the fly swatter around the brooder box, you'd think they were the Pied Piper of chicks. The baby birds are entranced, and, of course, so are the kids. The chicks get a snack of millet seed, even if there aren't any flies or other bugs around as a treat. Much amusement for all.
Last weekend, Sandy and Lucky, who hatched our young birds, came to visit the chicks. The babies knew Sandy's voice the instant she came in the door. They stopped what they were doing, craned their little necks against the plexiglass and peeped with all their might. It was a very gratifying moment, and an intriguing insight into how powerful auditory signals are for the birds..
So we still don't know why the chicken crossed the road, but the more we hang out with chickens the more we come to understand that she must have had a very good reason for doing it.