I am rapidly revising my ideas about chickens mostly I think of them as dumb clucks, sometimes a feather short of a full wing but in no way do I think of them as cunning, vicious killers.
However, today my blood ran cold. Today I realised that though the velociraptor is extinct its legacy lives on in its feathered descendants far more than may commonly be realised.
I had just been round to check on “Said Chicken” and ascertain if she really was one of my flock – I couldn’t get close enough to work it out so prepped Roger to catch her later in the day - and went to open up the Chicken shed.
I call to the tree chickens first; they roost in the trees at night and are more bantam like than their Chicken Shed cousins. I think that being smaller they need to get a look in before the bigger birds are let out. Then I usually open up the small chick cage to let out the babies and when I think they’ve had a good old go, I nip round the back and open the hatch.
Out they pour, clucking and cackling, a blur of black, brown speckled, white and grey blue feathers. Clacking yellow, pink and black long toed feet on the ramp a few jump and a few fly and whoosh they are round the corner and tucking in – only today something else happened.
There was the most god awful strangulated squawk from behind me and I swivelled on my feet to witness one of the younger cockerels chasing down what I thought was a chick – just as I started to burst into action and chase the bugger away, Blue – my Old English Game hen - joined in from the opposite direction. The “Chick” jinxed and got passed Blue who had made a lunge at it missing it by inches. Having survived that it seemed to falter and I realised that it was a juvenile Moorhen. I must have been slow because I could have grabbed it and rescued it but it dodged round me with both Blue and the young cockerel quite literally on its tail only to run straight into a few other hens. I thought it would be OK and relaxed a bit only to find that all the others turned on it as well.The bird was trapped and then all the hens all started to peck and jump up and down pulverising the unfortunate creature to death. It was all over within seconds and then my blood ran truly cold for with it dead the chickens started to feast. And those who has not taken part started to flock over and it was like out of some horror film – chickens grabbing at bits of gore, fighting, squawking and then it was all over and they were back to normal pecking away in the sunshine at the left over corn or wandering off to check out the garden, drink by the moat or else dust bathe in the sunshine. Just another normal autumn morning…and I am left standing looking about for evidence of this extraordinary goings on. Just a pair of yellow feet and some dusty grey black wing feathers…I am not so sure I will dismiss my chickens in quite the same way as before. RESPECT your chickens.