July 25, 2011
Mr. Mabel and the chickens

Photo by Audrey Pavia

Morning time with my flock is always entertaining.

I’m not sure if it’s the fact that my chickens wake up a lot earlier than I do, or if it’s just that they are eager to start the day, but mornings with my flock are always quite entertaining.

The scene is always the same: I go outside, feed the horses and then make my way to the coop where the flock was locked in for the night. Mr. Mabel paces and leaps at the door of the outdoor section of the coop, anxious to come out. Mr. Molly is still indoors, hanging low. Apparently, Mr. Mabel can’t be trusted to be nice this early in the morning.

A couple of the hens hang around in the outdoor section too, but most of them are indoors with Mr. Molly. All of them seem reluctant to get too close to Mr. Mabel.

I open the door to release the hostages, and Mr. Mabel races out. He stands up very straight and starts doing his alpha-rooster strut. The hens hang back; they have learned what happens to the first hen to set foot outside that coop.

As Mr. Mabel blusters around nearby, one of the hens gingerly walks out the gate. Mr. Mabel spies this and runs to her — seems he is very amorous in the morning. The hen runs for her life, squawking in protest with Mr. Mabel in hot pursuit.

While my boss rooster is preoccupied with the hen he’s chasing, the other three quietly sneak out the coop door. Mr. Molly is always last. He waits for Mr. Mabel to be long gone before he dares to set foot into the daylight.

The next segment to the morning ruckus is the race to the horse stalls. Mr. Mabel finds some fresh new bit of food in there that apparently wasn’t noticed the night before. (I don’t know — or care to know — what they’re eating.) As my roo emits his unmistakable “come and get it” clucks to hens, they race over to see what’s for breakfast.

As I make my way to the garage where I keep the lay pellets, I suddenly feel like the Pied Piper. The entire chicken crew follows close behind me. They take their positions on the lawn, and I go into the garage to get them their feed. I throw handfuls of the pellets onto the grass and watch the free-for-all as they hunt for the feed between the blades.

Once they’ve had their breakfast, the flock settles down. Their crazy morning energy dissipates and they begin their day, which consists mostly of roosting in the bushes, scratching in the dirt for bugs, and maintaining the soap opera that makes up the dynamic of the flock. I leave them to their adventures, wishing I didn’t have to go to work but could instead just sit around all day and watch my charming birds.

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