The Learning Curve

Aug 25, 2018 | 1 comment

Patient Teacher

Back in the dark ages, when I returned to college to earn my teaching credential, I was required to take “methods classes.”  They were all about how kids learn and how to best optimize their natural proclivities in the classroom.  I found those courses to be  very practical, but I’m here to tell you that nothing I learned there works especially well with chickens.

It’s not that chickens can’t learn.  We’ve all seen those YouTube videos of chickens walking on balance beams and jumping through hoops on demand – all for a few kernels of corn.  And most of the chickens we have had over the years have learned the basics of successful coop living.  Keyword:  most.  Some seem to know the tricks of sleeping on the roost and laying eggs in the nest box automatically.  Presumably they learn where to do what by observing the others.  They don’t really talk about it with outsiders.  It seems to be another Guild Secret and I’m guessing that it involves the learning method called Careful Observation.

Being Home Schooled?

Our youngest girls are beginning to lay.  We know that because, all of a sudden, we are getting perfect miniature eggs.  I think of them as “practice eggs.”  Most of our young hens go through that stage for a bit before managing to lay normal sized eggs.  Getting the size just right is no mean feat.  It’s during this practice period that a girl is likely to lay a huge, double-yolked egg which logic says must be painful.  Among chickens not bred to that sort of thing, it seldom happens more than once or twice.  Trial and Error is definitely a big driver among chicken learning methods.

There seems to be some confusion, though, about the purpose of the nest boxes.  The pullets often sleep there rather than on the roost.  Farmer Nyel will probably have to invoke the Because I Say So learning method to correct that problem.  Of course, the operable word isn’t “say.”  Teaching recalcitrant chickens where to bed down involves 1) going to the coop after dark, 2) taking the sleeping offender out of the nest box, and 3) setting her on the roost next to another chicken.  Sometimes the process needs to be repeated several times.  A gigantic pain in the tush (farmer’s, not chicken’s.)

Around the Watering Trough

Meanwhile, at least one of our youngest ladies has taken to laying her eggs under the coop and hiding them behind a large food storage tub.  The Farmer caught a glimpse of such an egg quite by accident and had to enlist the help of his cane to retrieve it.  Perhaps that young hen was thinking it best not to lay her egg in the spot where she usually sleeps.  Good thinking on her part, but based on a few basic misunderstandings.

We are hoping that some of these topics will be clarified as the girls gather around their watering trough.  Now that they are on their own, it seems to be one of the few places where they are consistently in close enough proximity to have an in-depth discussion.  But… it’s hard to tell with chickens.

1 Comment

  1. Caroline Miller

    I found your blog today and what an informative essay on chicken psychology. it is Have another friend who raises chickens. I’ll say this for the pair of you, the chickens seem to bestow a sunny-side-up world view.

    Reply

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