I find it slightly disturbing that when I go to feed the landlords’ hens with some of my surplus lettuce (I knew there was an answer) I can now more or less tell them apart.
They don’t have names, they’re not those kind of hens, although they are sometimes known collectively as ‘the girls’. But I can still discern some sort of differences between them based on their behaviour. There’s brighter-than-the-average chicken, who’s the only one of five to have figured out that it’s easier to eat bits off a leaf of lettuce if you put your foot on it first. There’s ordinary chicken who is just a chicken and has no distinguising behaviour at all. Then there’s bossy chicken, who only likes to eat what the other chickens are eating and spends all her time chasing after brighter-than-the-average and ordinary trying to dominate the food supply. She’s the one who comes clucking self-importantly up to you when you go to fetch the eggs. There’s also sick chicken who sits around looking sorry for herself in the dust bath, but who has apparently always looked like that without ever actually dying or even declining much. She can usually be tempted to peck listlessly at a juicy bit of lettuce until bossy comes over to pinch it off her. And finally there’s do-I-look-like-a-rabbit chicken who disdains lettuce – and indeed chickweed – and doesn’t like to be seen with the other hens. Instead she stands aloofly in the corner, rising above it all although she will make the effort if there are marinated slugs going.
I did take some pictures to try and illustrate all this, but it turned out to be just a load of photographs of identical-looking chickens. So you’ll just have to believe me when I say they all have distinct personalities of their own. Either that, or I really do have to get out more.