August 13, 2012
hen pecking on sidewalk

Photo by Audrey Pavia

This hen has been exhibiting a very weird behavior.

I’ve had my flock of bantams for several years now, and I spend a lot of time watching them. So at this point, it’s hard for them to come up with a behavior I haven’t seen before. Yet, that is what happened last week.

It was early in the morning, and I had just let the birds out of their coop. Per usual, they paddled behind me as I walked to the garage to get their breakfast. (They are excitable when I first let them out of the coop.) The roosters do the shuffle dance in front of the hens and my young pullets cheep cheep cheep with exhilaration. When I step inside the garage to reach into their bag of pellets, they hover around the door, anxiously waiting for me to toss their feed on the lawn.

But this morning was a little bit different: As I was standing in the garage about to walk out the door toward the lawn, I noticed one of my gray Leghorns standing just at the threshold, looking up at me. She was staring at me right in the face, cocking her head to one side and then the other, and sometimes looking at me straight on, right down her beak.

I stopped in my tracks. First off, she was blocking my path; I couldn’t step out of the door without bumping into her. And I had never seen a chicken look at me like that before.

So I stood there frozen. She looked at me. I looked at her. She looked at me again. I looked back and her. Then, she hunkered down and flew right into my face.

I instinctively put my hands up to protect myself from this chicken, which was quickly at eye level. But before she made contact, she fluttered to the ground and scurried off.

I stood there for a moment in shock, wondering out loud “What the heck was that?”

After feeding the chickens, I went about my day, but my thoughts repeatedly turned to the incident as I struggled to make sense of my hen’s behavior.

Then this morning, when I was going through the usual routine, I found myself at the threshold of the garage door, face to face once again with this same hen. She was staring at my face again in that same exact way. I stood rock-still, studying her in an effort to figure out what was going on in her little bird brain. At one point, she crouched down like she was going at fly up at me again, but then changed her mind and ran off.

I’m bound and determined to figure out what is happening with this chicken. While part of me thinks she is just being weird, I also find myself worrying about her health. Time will tell if she’s acting strange because she is sick, or if she’s just a really weird bird.

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