Friday, September 14, 2012 • 7:20 PM Comments ()

Peace in the Barnyard

posted by Caleb Rounds

We know now that, accepting the loch ness monster and Todd Akin, there are no dinosaurs left. However, paleontologists agree that birds evolved from dinosaurs. When I watch my chickens I wonder how much their behavior resembles dinosaurs. Did dinosaurs make throaty little noises when they were happy? Did they have a pecking order? One of the brontosauruses was just not as cool as the rest. Of course there has been 150 million years of evolution. Human behavior doesn’t resemble our ancestors of 150 million years ago. 58 MYA our closest relative, Plesiadapis looked like a 5 pound squirrel. It probably wasn’t passive aggressive about who was going to do the laundry.
Chickens have been with us a long time -- at least several thousand years. Chaucer in the Nun’s Priest’s Tale commented, somewhat obliquely, on the pecking order. Chaunticleer, the hero of the story had seven wives “for to doon al his plesaunce.” I’ll just leave that in Middle English. One of them, Pertelot, was the most beautiful and she got to hang out on the same roost as Chaunticleer. Our hero has a prescient dream in which a fox came to kill him. His beloved paramour suggested that he was constipated and prescribed an herbal laxative “For Goddes love, as taak som laxatyf.” Sadly, her advice did not handle the real problem: Chaunticleer’s pride.
When the fox did arrive, his flattery convinced the rooster to stretch out his neck to crow. That was a mistake. After a chase, the cock played to the fox’s pride and was released. What we see here is the pride of all the barnyard animals and the wild ones. Each thinks of him/herself as quite important.
My chickens are no different. As I’ve mentioned before I’ve added a few hens recently. Nobody wants to get along. I have had a few play dates with the two groups and things have gone well enough: no blood drawn. But I’m not ready to leave them alone yet. This will take time.
Of course this all seem ridiculous. You are a freaking chicken, so is that other one. You make good soup and I like your eggs, but nobody thinks you’re important. But oh how they beg to differ. Just as a teenager smitten by Justin Bieber thinks the sun, moon and earth revolve around him our chickens no doubt see our household as much more poultry focused than I do. Potentially, they see me as some sort of servant. Maybe I do need to start eating them.
So I laugh at their silly social structure.
Then the other day I was waiting for the school bus with the indigent boarders. We wait at the top of our street four houses away. Another parent was there with her boarders (indigent?). One was bouncing on the picket fence beside the sidewalk. A mini-SUV of some sort pulled out into the main road then came to a sudden halt. A short, very angry woman of advanced age stomped out and stormed over to us “you can keep bouncing on that if you’re willing to have the fence reseated and reset” she screamed at me. I should mention I’ve lived four doors down from this person for four years and have never laid eyes on her. The house is rather nice. One might even say well-appointed. I apologized as did the other parent, and was rather pleased to see that she didn’t scold her child.
This sort of interaction gives me pause. Does she think has accomplished something? She has alienated two parents and a total of five children. I’d suggest that as she sees things she’s a bit higher on the pecking order than we are. She can just strut around and peck at us then drive off. if she shows up again I should make little trilling noises and run around in circles. But I’m no chicken. It does seem to me that we should move beyond pecking order. I mean, we’re not dinosaurs.

Accepting the Loch Ness monster and Todd Akin, there are no dinosaurs left. However, paleontologists agree that birds evolved from dinosaurs. This leads me to wonder when I watch my chickens whether their behavior resembles dinosaurs. Did dinosaurs make throaty little noises when they were happy? Did they have a pecking order? Of course there has been 150 million years of evolution since Archaeopteryx, but I'll bet there was significant heirarchy for velociraptors. There was an alpha and an omega.

Chaucer in the "Nun’s Priest’s Tale" commented, somewhat obliquely, on the pecking order. Chaunticleer, the hero of the story had seven wives “for to doon al his plesaunce.” I’ll just leave that in Middle English. One of them, Pertelot, was the most beautiful and she got to hang out on the same roost as Chaunticleer. Our hero has a prescient dream in which a fox came to kill him. His beloved paramour suggested that he was constipated and prescribed an herbal laxative “For Goddes love, as taak som laxatyf.” Sadly, her advice did not handle the real problem: Chaunticleer’s pride.

When the fox arrived, his flattery convinced the rooster to stretch out his neck to crow. That was a mistake. After a chase, the cock played to the fox’s own pride and was released; an ironic twist of fate. What we see here is the pride of both barnyard animals and the wild ones. Each thinks of him/herself as quite important. Strikes a little too close to home for my taste.

My chickens are no different. As I’ve mentioned before I’ve added a few hens recently. Nobody wants to get along. I've set up a few play dates with the two groups and things have gone well enough: no blood drawn. But I’m not ready to leave them alone yet. This will take time.

Of course this all seem ridiculous. You are a freaking chicken, so is that other one. You make good soup and I like your eggs, but nobody thinks you’re important. But oh how they beg to differ. Just as a teenager smitten by Justin Bieber thinks the sun, moon and earth revolve around him, our chickens see our household as much more poultry focused than I do. Potentially, they see me as some sort of servant. Maybe I do need to start eating them.

So I laugh at their silly social structure.

Then the other day I was waiting for the school bus with the indigent boarders. We wait at the top of our street four houses away. Another parent was there with her boarders (indigent?). One was bouncing his butt on the picket fence beside the sidewalk. A nasty SUV of some sort pulled out into the main road then came to a sudden halt. A short, very angry woman of advanced age stormed over to us, “you can keep bouncing on that if you’re willing to have the fence reseated and reset” she screamed at me. I should mention I’ve lived four doors down from this person for four years and have never laid eyes on her. I apologized as did the other parent, and was rather pleased to see that mom didn’t scold her child.

This sort of interaction gives me pause. Does this lady think has accomplished something? She has alienated two parents and a total of five children. I’d suggest that as she sees things she’s a bit higher on the pecking order than we are. She can just strut around and peck at us then drive off. if she shows up again I should make little trilling noises and run around in circles. But I’m no chicken. It does seem to me that we should move beyond pecking order. I mean, we’re not dinosaurs.

(Title with apologies to Leif Solem)
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