I’m not sure where I stand in the pecking order. On one hand, if I move too quickly in the pen, birds go flying frantically everywhere. I’m surprised I don’t have to regularly peel them off of the fencing. On the other hand, several of the chickens come peck at anything from my toenails to rivets on my jeans. They don’t seem to be trying to intimidate me. They seem to be tasting me and my attire. For birds that appear to know exactly which plants they want to eat, it seems odd that they can be so confused by things like freckles.
It all adds up to being very careful where and how I walk in the chicken pen. I don’t want to step on the curious and I don’t want to end up with a face full of feathers during mass hysteria. But there is one hen that I have to be particularly aware of. Her name is Misty. She has muted gray feathers and she might think I am her mother.
I don’t know how chickens show affection, if they do. I don’t see them rubbing noses or holding wings. Mostly I see them running after each other, to steal something or squawking something that sounds like, “don’t leave me here alone!” But I think Misty likes me. She jumps up on my lap or my shoulders every chance she gets. Oddly, she does not peck at anything while there. Well, except for that one time when her instincts got the better of her when she saw my eyeball. In her defense, that was one time out of all the days since last April when she was a little chickie.
Almost every day that I go into the pen, she figures out a way to perch on me for a little bit. She lets me pet her, and she is in no hurry to get down. Even when I want her to leave. She knows just where to stand so that I can’t reach her well enough to get ahold of her. This can’t be an aversion to being held, because she lets me approach her and pick her up when she is just walking around.
Some days I’m not in the mood to have a chicken jump up on me. Misty doesn’t care. She circles me, looking for that moment when I am distracted with my care duties, then up she flies. It is often startling as she lands very near the back of my neck. Then, she walks around there casually for a few minutes, deciding to jump back down in her own sweet time. It doesn’t matter what time of day I go out or even if we go out to the larger pen area. She finds time for me. (click on any photo to enlarge)
I don’t care how clean your chicken yard is, chickens are not careful to keep their feet clean. They walk in stuff. So, I have learned to think extra hard about what I wear to the chicken pen. In the summer, it’s not quite as bad. It’s not so much laundry to change into another tank-top. Skin can be washed easily enough. There is the matter of the hair. Misty often huddles up next to my hair, but a quick shower during warmer weather isn’t too traumatic. In the winter, I put on the same hooded sweatshirt and insulated overalls for many days without washing them. They are just designated my chicken hugging clothes.
A few of the other chickens have been friendly enough to visit my shoulder over the weeks, but none as consistently as Misty. Sometimes I think, “wouldn’t it be nice if they were all so friendly.” Then, I picture myself with 15 chickens on my shoulders. Maybe just one this loving is enough after all.