Monday, March 18, 2013

Up (and Down) to Old Tricks

Pip (right) as a youngster with the two Jaerhons. 
This weekend, the hens were in the small chicken yard, and the gates to the rest of the backyard were closed. The hens tend to clip the newly emerging grass very short, so we try to limit their lawn time when it's growing. But they will sometimes stand at the gate looking pitifully toward the yard. K says that if they had a tin cup to scrape along the fence bars, they would.

Yesterday I happened to look outside to check on them, and saw Pip, the foundling Ameraucana, perched on top of a rail, working up her courage to leap/fly to the top of the trellis. This made me laugh, because it was something that the Norwegian Jaerhons (Fliers Extraordinaire) had perfected and taught Pip.

Pip thinks she's a Jaerhon. She was raised together with the two smaller hens, and they were lighter-bodied and very adept at hopping to the top of the trellis and soaring down to the other side. Pip is what's called a large fowl -- she's a standard sized chicken and though not as big as some heavy-bodied chickens, she's about twice as heavy as the Jaerhons. Not really built aerodynamically like the Norwegian hens.

Still, she would watch them map their escape route, and when she was smaller she was able to follow easily. As she got bigger and heavier, flying wasn't quite as easy for her as it was for them, but she seemed to think she was one of them, and would gamely follow and worked very hard to keep up. She was ungainly, but determined, following along like a sumo wrestler mirroring the moves of two prima ballerinas.

After we moved the two Jaerhons out to the country where they could range a little more freely, Pip seemed to forget about the tricks they'd taught her. She stayed grounded with the rest of her flock for the last year.

Until yesterday, that is. I watched her. If you've ever seen someone working up the momentum and courage to take a big leap, that's what she looked like. She kept bouncing up and down, looking at the top of the trellis as if measuring her required lift. Finally, she gave a big push, lifted into the air just high enough to reach the top of the trellis and use it to push off and land on the other side. As she did, she made big clucking sounds like a kid yelling on his way down from the high dive.

Then she settled her wings, organized her tail feathers, and happily began pecking at the new grass.

Meanwhile, the other five hens stood at the gate, astonished and a bit peeved. If they could put their wings on their hips, they would have. But Pip completely ignored them, enjoying her freedom and thankful that she, unlike those big heavy chickens, was a Jaerhon and Ace flier.

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