The Great Backyard Chicken Adventure, part 6

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Since the ladies are already a year old and come from a large flock on the peninsula they are not accustomed to petting or cuddling. But they do come right up to see what goodies have arrived, even to people they’ve never met. I’ve had many friends over to meet and admire them. My friend J, who is an old hand at birds, caught each one so we could have a look at their feet. Thelma flapped a little but calmed right down and neither squawked or struggled while being held. When they were set back down they each shook their feathers and turned right around to see if the ‘hands’ held out any treats. They will ‘batten down the hatches’ if any large birds fly close enough to hear, since they are listed as dessert in the food chain. The sound of my voice seems to relax them, unless they can understand the words ‘impenetrable fortress’.

Bomb craters…that’s what my friend calls where the ladies take their dust baths. If you’ve never seen the dust bath process, you might think something is wrong. Hens will scratch, then sit and wiggle down into soft, sandy soil and kind of flop around. Then they fling soil onto their backs with their wings. This can be done several times, until it feels just right. My two hens do it right next to each other, it looks like they’re taking a nap together. The dust helps keep the mites away, it’s a natural cleansing behavior. That explains the tiny pile of soil on Thelma’s back one evening as they gathered for dinner.

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