Small Talk

Chicken scratch

May 28th, 2012

For months, we've noticed weird scratch marks in the garden. And by garden, I mean a raised box mostly full of dirt and weeds now that I work all the time and I neglect all but the most vital functions.

I have an herb garden near the front yard, and we fenced it off because my dog used to dig in it and rip up all the plants. It's a gerryrigged fence of plastic lattice. We are not engineers or carpenters. We can't put together anything using actual saws or nails.

This is held together with simple stakes, zip ties, and carabiners (kind of trailer, I know) so it bows out in the middle. That's where we've started to see a slight gap, as if someone's pushed their way in.

When Claus started noticing little scratch marks to go with it, he surmised Inca was sneaking in the garden so she could look through the fence at the street activity (though there are other places in my yard for her to achieve that). He thought the scratch marks were just the claw depressions of the 70 pound beast we call Inca.

Can't be, I said. She would not resist the urge to also totally dig up the dirt, like before.

She's learned, he said. Labs are smart.

So that's where the debate laid for some time, until Saturday morning.

I was in the shower and Olivia was alone in the living room watching TV. Claus had gone for a dawn bike ride.

I heard a screeeeeeech from that general direction and then super heavy footsteps of Inca running down the porch, followed by the continued pounding as Inca tore through the yard, barking. The screech overlaid the entire soundtrack of chaos.

Babies and little kids make noises like animals; I've confused the cat's yowl for a baby's cry. So I thought something happened to Olivia, and I came running out of the shower.

The noise stopped. I heard Claus' calm speaking, so I realized he had just gotten home. Must have been the TV, I thought, and started to dry off.

When I came upstairs, I got the real story. He came home to find a CHICKEN in our garden. "When I walked in, it was sitting on the parsley," he recounted. "I startled it, so it flew out of the garden and onto the porch railing, which is when Inca saw it and ran after it."

I laughed so hard.

So that explains the chicken scratch and the mysterious fence gap.

"Why would she come into this garden knowing Inca is right there?" he wondered. "And maybe that also accounts for Inca's seemingly random barking at nothing, sometimes?" (I thought the dog was getting senile.)

I thought chickens were stupid, but maybe they're actually smart. She's smart enough to know how to do it for months without getting chased by Inca. She probably knows the fence keeps the dog out.

I recall a recent story my new friend Dan tells me about trouble with a chicken in his yard. "It poops on my deck, so I've started stalking it with a water gun to deter it."

One day the chicken figured out Dan's movements. Porch door slamming+no human=Dan went inside. When that opportunity came, the chicken waited for him. When he didn't return in short order, she actually squawked until he came to the door, as if calling him out.

When Dan was standing in the doorframe, the chicken defecated and flew off, as if to taunt him. He was quite annoyed. "The next time I serve you food, it'll be chicken nuggets, and don't ask me where it came from!" he steamed.

I'm not sure where Dan is on his poultry problem, but I'm OK with this lady bird. It doesn't seem she's eating the herbs (and there are so few left anyway)- isn't she just scratching the dirt in search of bugs?

It certainly, though, gave me a hearty laugh. And if anyone has an opinion on or anecdote about chicken intelligence, I'd enjoy hearing it.

Posted in family | 14 Comments »

14 Responses to “Chicken scratch”

  1. wafan:

    Sorry for the late comment on your Costco bag story . . .

    Next time you are there notice how many guys are wearing the cargo shorts from Costco. You know, those with the six pockets. Okay, up here once the sun comes out it is as if every guy bought their wardrobe at Costco.

    Yeah, I am guilty of owning two pairs of the shorts.

  2. wafan:

    When is the chicken dinner?

  3. Deborah Ward:

    Hi Diane. I used to have two chickens. Kept them in a coop. Let them out in the small back yard to scratch for bugs. Boy they loved the roaches, slugs, you name it. Soon there was no grass left. If you don't catch this one you will have no garden left. Good luck!

  4. Ken Conklin:

    So, Diane, you and Dan have the feeling that chickens actually taunt, or challenge, dogs and people? Is that merely anthropomorphism (humans inappropriately attributing human intelligence and feelings to animals)? Or might it actually be true?

    I have a similar observation, but it's about geckos, not chickens.

    I live alone on the 12th floor of an apartment building, a long way from any greenery. About 3 months ago I somehow became adopted by a gecko. A very LARGE gecko, mostly brown and about 5 inches long. I've seen it only on two occasions as it ran along a wall, but have heard it chirping **at me** nearly every evening several times between 7-9 PM. Usually it chirps from the entryway/kitchen area, where I think it lives in a closet near the door. It also has a vacation home in some boxes stored above the overhead kitchen cabinets. But a couple of evenings it went holoholo about 25 ft. to come very near to me, chirping loudly **at me** from behind a bookshelf as I sat at my computer in the living room.

    I had a similar experience about 20 years ago while living in a townhouse apartment, similar to yours, with a yard; so it was not surprising then to have a gecko. It definitely seemed to be taunting me, always chirping 8 times in rapid succession while watching me from the exposed beams of the ceiling. But that one was a small, cute green one, and all the locals told this malihini it's good luck to have a gecko. So I never chased it or threatened it. A few months later, after it left, I found a whole lot of tiny white gecko eggs inside a malfunctioning electric outlet, no doubt a makana from my pet mo'o.

    But now my gecko is huge, and ominous muddy brown instead of cheerful green. I just KNOW that somewhere it's leaving poop and maybe laying eggs; so I confess that once when I saw it I chased it, trying repeatedly to whack it with a roach-basher (rolled up newspaper). But it ran way too fast, hid behind a picture frame that I dare not bash, and then dashed to safety in its closet. Ever since then my gecko has aggressively taunted me by chirping numerous times almost every night from various locations. Sometimes it gives the standard series of 8 rapid-fire chirps, but now it also begins its evening forays with a special aloha series of 4 extremely loud chirps: "Hey, catch me if you can!" And it ends its evening forays with the same aloha series of 4 extremely loud chirps "Hey dummy I won again!" If it dies someday somewhere in a closet, or a box, or behind a massive bookshelf, I will know only by the absence of chirping and later the smell of rotting flesh, perhaps followed by a trail of ants carrying picnic leftovers back to their nest. And I will reward them with a spoonful of sugar.

    So I know from two situations 20 years apart that geckos do chirp **at** people, either in friendly greeting or else to taunt and challenge us. So I would not be surprised if the chicken in your herb garden actually was taunting Inca, and Dan's chicken intentionally taunts Dan by pooping on his porch.

    You guys are lucky to have recipes for chicken nuggets. I want a recipe for gecko fricassee just in case I get lucky wielding the basher.

  5. Rosette:

    oh dear a chicken...toss a fake snake and see if it is smart and go away forever .... you can put a tiny scarecrow..and bell..yes you tie a bell with string and ring that !

  6. Rosette:

    if a gecko teases me I get me those sticky paper thingy...all over the wall....I GOT YOU SUCKER!

  7. galekaminari:

    Oh boy, a free Chicken! I have been considering getting a chicken because apparently they make excellent guards. Did I read it in your blog? One chicken is all that you want. Free bug eradication, I suppose. But supposedly, the guard chicken is territorial and will squawk loudly at people and creatures who do not belong to the household, and even fly at stubborn intruders. Then there are the fresh and free eggs!

  8. M:

    Hello Diane,
    Where I live there's so much chickens it's driving the neighborhood crazy. The roosters crows all night and all day.

  9. galekaminari:

    Roosters are way diff from Hens. So, you only want the hen and eggs, and be sure to eat all the eggs so there are no roosters! LOL

  10. snow:

    you had a chicken sitting on your parsley.

    chicken butt. on your parsley.

    do you actually use the herbs from your herb garden? 😉

  11. Diane Ako:

    snow- ok, that had me rolling. i'm too lazy to weed; i've been too lazy to harvest parsley! it's huge and just growing there.

    Deborah - thanks for the tip. I haven't seen the hen since that day so I guess we scared her off?

  12. galekaminari:

    Deborah, good to know! I had never heard of chickens as grass cutters (ah, eradicators!).

    Snow, that was seriously funny and totally on point! Yuck!

    My daughter and I were enjoying a cute stalker kitten one day, when it leapt on our dining table and got kitty hoofy prints all over it, and as if that was not bad enough, then, it sat on our dining table. And then it mooned me, just to be sure that I saw every little detail of its stalker kitty butt. Eeewwwww ! Cute or not, no butts on my table linen, or hoofies either!

  13. Po'ke man.:

    Diane, you sure it's not rats. Used to see deep claws marks on side of gray C&C rubbish bins, at my moms place and later realized there was a rat problem. Spent some nights there watching my mom and could hear the rats scurrying around under the house and making sounds. You don't throw foods scapes in the bin do you? Some people do throw food in their compost pile, which is not recommended.

  14. Diane Ako:

    Po'ke man, I'm not sure it's rats. I hope not! We do not have a compost bin anymore (I overheated the worms).

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