Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Where Do Free Range Poultry Go At Night? And an Alex Video.

At The Queen's County Farm Museum, one of the reenactors on site feeds an apple to the cow. The apple tree being on the other side of the fence, the cow has been bumming apples from people all day. It is a cow after all; it has plenty of room for plenty of apples.

Therefore I noticed, when suddenly the cow headed off to the other side of the pasture, fixedly looking at something. What had pried Cow away from apple bumming.

Cow was looking at the turkey and ducks on the roof of the shed. I give the cow, it was odd, at least to me. And the roof wasn't a place they'd been a few minutes before when I'd looked that way. What are they doing?

Then I see that the black hen has teamed up with the turkey again. Earlier in the day, I'd seen the turkey chasing a brown hen. Well I'd thought it was only the turkey chasing her but it turned out it was the turkey and the black hen chasing the brown hen out of the pasture. Then satisfied, the turkey and the black hen moseyed off together. I started watching them. Turkey and Blackie seemed fast friends. They went everywhere together. Now here they were up on the roof together.

Then they took to their rather heavily laden wings and landed in the nearby tree.

A big white domesticated turkey looks rather strange in a tree. Particularly cuddled up to a black chicken

But not any stranger than ducks on a roof.

Turkey went to the next branch over and the ducks proceeded to the near corner of the shed roof--the staging area. Blackie made the leap over to Turkey at the second perch and then the ducks were in the tree as well. I'm sorry, webbed feet look even more out of place than the turkey up there.

Scanning the tree, I then saw it was full of fowl. Chickens, ducks, you name a farm bird, they were up there. It was dusk and they'd all gone up to roost off the ground away from predators. Domesticated yes, dummies, no. I suspect that a free range fowl doesn't last long if it's lacking in the brains department. But why hadn't the chickens taken a tree, the ducks another and down the line as wild birds tend to do in flocks? Flocks being an anti-predator device in themselves. Because this was the only tree with a convenient shed for a staging area? Probably, as domesticated farm birds aren't really known for their flight acumen.
I looked for the Peacocks in the tree, of which there were several on the premises, but didn't see them. They, at least, seemed to be roosting elsewhere.
At 4am, I realized that there was at least one rooster who wasn't up in the communal tree either. He began to crow from the east. ( Perhaps the black cock hanging out with the cow in the pasture while the others went up the shed tree?) The multiple roosters in the shed tree responded and the game was on. Single rooster would give it a go, then multiple roosters would crow, sometimes almost in unison. Actually quite impressive. Then single rooster would have another shot at it.
Suddenly crowing, took on a whole new meaning. It wasn't just making noise alerting all to upcoming dawn; there was more to it. Exactly what, I'm not sure, but as always with birds, there was something specific happening.
Long ago the African ancestors of our chickens, having taken to the trees in the savannas of Africa for the night, crowed near morning. Was it a signal that counted heads? One assumes that chickens in the same flock would recognize the calls of individual roosters. Would they crow a certain number of times depending on the numbers in their particular tree? Now that's stretching it a mile I realize, but if you don't ask you'll never delve deep enough to find out. And even if the answer is a resounding no which no doubt this one is very likely to be, having looked long enough one just might find the answer to a question one never even thought of asking.
Speaking of asking questions, as obviously the birds likely roosted in that tree every evening, just why would the cow watch them so fixedly as they made their way up there?
(Click the link and then scroll down to the photo of the African Grey)
Donegal Browne

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