Every now and then, the behavior of animals surprises and delights me. I’ve mentioned that our chickens think that they are pets. I don’t discourage them and it is sometimes a helpful thing. Periodically, they get out of their pen and it is seldom an issue getting them back where they belong because when they see me, they come running. I merely pick them up and put them back.
Yesterday, I was surprised in a totally different way and it also had to do with the behavior of our chickens.
For the past two years, there has been a small flock of wild chickadees that hang out with the chickens. They are there all year long and it is helpful for the chickadees because when the temperatures are below freezing, then know that I’m going to be taking liquid water out to the chickens. The chickadees have water to drink. There is also enough grain put down for the chickens that the chickadees have a little something to eat. The chickens can sometimes be aggressive toward one another, but they don’t seem to mind sharing with the chickadees.
Well, this time of year, with bitter cold coming, I supplement the chicken feed with slop. This sounds and rather looks unappealing, but it is table scraps and food that is old, cooked up with some rice and oats and shredded apples added to it. I occasionally add old meat or lard, too. All of this helps the chickens generate more heat so they can deal with the cold.
Yesterday, one of the hens surprised me. I took out a container of slop for the chickens. They were eating away when I noticed a little female chickadee. She’d hop out from under the hutch, look around, then flit back under the hutch. She did this several times and I figured that she was just waiting for me to leave so she could share some grain. I hadn’t brought out any grain, but the chickadee didn’t know that.
However, the chickens were well aware of what I’d brought them. They were also aware of the chickadees. After four or five times of the chickadee coming out and going back, one of the hens picked up a clump of cooked rice, walked over to where the chickadee was appearing and dropped the food. The chickadee appeared again and happily ate the morsel. Then it occurred to me what I’d just witnessed. The chicken had purposely taken some food over for her chickadee friend to eat! This is most unusual behavior for a chicken. Normally, they are very fast to eat any food that is offered, trying to eat as much as possible before the other chickens can get to it. In fact, most of the squabbles between the chickens are over food. However, the one hen had actually shared her food on purpose. It appears that our chickens, which think that they are pets, think that the chickadees are their pets and try to take care of them.
Have you ever heard of a chicken actually feeding a bird of a different species?