As I mentioned in my last post, I keep chickens. In fact, according to the timestamps on some photos I found, I’ve kept chickens for at least ten years, so I’ve spent a fair amount of time observing them, and their social interactions.
A flock of chickens (whether or not any roosters are present) will establish a pecking order. This shouldn’t be much of a surprise. They will, quite literally, peck each other to establish and maintain dominance or order.
Some groups of chickens (say, two or three) might seem to enjoy each others’ company more than the rest of the flock and will tend to hang out together.
If a chicken becomes ill, or too weak to defend itself, it’s quite likely that other members of the flock will peck it to death, unless you segregate the sick chook until it gets better.
If there are roosters, they will tend to fight each other. Less so if they were raised together and have known each other their whole lives, but even then there’ll still be some scrapping. Roosters will also look after the hens. They will go forth and find food, then make the *dook* *dook* *dook* there’s-food-over-here noise to call their ladies over. And you really do get the sense that a rooster believes they are his ladies. If another rooster tries to mate with one of the hens and the boss rooster notices, he’ll attack the up and comer. He’ll even attack you, the human, trying to give the chickens food, if he thinks you’re up to no good. But by and large, these are actually all good qualities in roosters.
All this observation got me to thinking… Maybe the bad behaviour we humans exhibit – the sexism, the racism, the put-downs, the fighting, all that, maybe that’s because we’ve forgotten (or, worse yet, never learned) that we’re not chickens anymore. How many human males behave just like roosters, with little or no regard for the fact that women don’t actually need men to find food for them? And, when I mentioned my thesis to a female friend, she pointed out – how many women still behave like hens? How many of us peck at people we think are inferior to, or less knowledgeable than, ourselves?
The life of a chicken seems to consist mostly of eating, fucking, fighting and making little baby chickens. Humans do all these things too – and should be enjoying most of them – but I’d like to think that in the 313-330 million years since the common ancestor of humans and birds split, we’d have learned a thing or two about how to treat each other with decency and respect.