Friday, December 3, 2010

Things you may not know about chickens

This morning while walking to school, I saw something I have never seen before in my entire life: a chicken in a persimmon tree eating a persimmon. I think I actually stopped for a second to see if I was actually seeing what I thought I saw. Sure enough, perched precariously up about 15 feet, was a chicken. It clumsily grasped at the narrow branch it stood on to stretch up and peck at a lone persimmon on the otherwise bare tree. I thought chickens didn't fly..... how did it get up into the tree? I've only ever seen them flap around and hop up on something a few feet off the ground - but this chicken was perched 15 feet up. I know chickens can't climb....that's just absurd, but I wanted to know how the chicken got up there. So today I observed chickens and learned a few things.

Chickens in a hazelnut orchard
Have you ever watched a chicken? In the moments between English lessons, reading, drawing, and studying Georgian (and when it's not raining) I like watching the chickens. They are funny-looking creatures. If you watch their heads, it looks like you are watching a stop-action animated character. The motion between the jerks is imperceptible. I wonder if they get headaches from the constant quick motion? Their bodies don't really have anything to do with their movements. The body is more like ballast to keep the chicken on balance as it raises and lowers its head to peck around. The funny triangle of body dips and lets the tail feathers fan up toward the sky, then lowers again, bobbing along to follow the herky-jerky head on its incessant search of something to eat. The other part that moves is (obviously) its feet. The feet don't look like they belong to the rest of the bird. The feathers are so soft and well, feathery, and then the skinny, bumpy, gnarled legs and feet plod along trying to keep up with the herky-jerky head. If you look at the two pieces, feathered and unfeathered, the chicken looks pretty frankenstien-ed together! And when they's hilarious! The head is again in the lead, the feet try desperately to catch up - but what really kills me about a chicken running is the movement of its "shoulders." I've been pondering how to describe the motion, and I can't come up with an adequate description. The closest I can get it is something like the motion of a kayaker with no arms paddling as fast as possible - just a rolling motion on either side that is lacking ........well, appendages! (I know, that's not very socially sensitive, but that's all I've got!)

Family chicken checking out the dirty dishes
As I watched the chickens peck around in the front yard today I noticed a black hen that had a funny tuft of feathers on its head, as if it had on a pill-box hat with a veil for Sunday services. I hadn't noticed that particular chicken before - there are also white ones, speckled black and white ones, caramel-colored ones, and some with caramel-colored heads and shimmery gray bodies on the family farm. A few roosters strut around, too pretending they own everything. (Did you know that roosters crow at sundown and sun-up? ....and pretty much all day long.) Anyway, this evening Tea walked in the back door into the kitchen holding two limp chickens upside-down - necks freshly was the black pill-box hat chicken. I didn't expect to see it dressed for dinner when I thought earlier that it looked like it was wearing a hat! And here's what I learned next: if you dunk a dead chicken into boiling water, the feathers are easier to pluck. No, I didn't help!

The kitchen window looks out into the backyard where the hazelnut trees run up to the various out-buildings. As the sun was setting, I noticed for the second time today, chickens in a tree. All the chickens were flying up into the hazelnut trees and settling into the branches. That's where they sleep. Who knew?? Well, Tea knew. She chuckled at my new-found knowledge. Silly American!


  1. I've been wondering, are there squirrels in Georgia? I get unlimited entertainment from watching squirrels but I would take chickens in their place :)

  2. There are squirrels in Georgia, but not in the area where I live (western Georgia). And I didn't see any in Tbilisi, either! But the students have talked about them - maybe they live in the mountains?