Thursday, July 28, 2011

Pecking order

One of the best things I did a couple of years ago, was to put clear glass in the bathrooms instead of the frosted. This gives me a very good view of the activities in the garden as my bathroom overlooks the busiest area, namely the chicken coop.
Not too long ago my one bantam hen sat on seven fertile eggs that I got from a neighbour. Three of the eggs came out of a nest in her garden, and four came out of her fridge, having been collected a few days before. Out of this lot hatched four chicks. And amazingly they were all hens. There are photos of them in this blog, so do have a look. Sadly one of them was killed by my dog the other day, so now I'm being extra vigilant. This was a first such incident.
Anyway to get back to my story. The chicks grew up and when mother hen eventually decided that they were big enough to fend for themselves, she literally pecked them out of her life. No longer were they allowed to share the perch at night, but have been banished to sitting on top of the coop. If the chicks get in her way at feeding time, they get a vicious pecking, so I place two piles of food - one for the elders and one for the juniors. Even the juniors are subjected to the odd jab from the smallest of the three. Talk about sticking up for yourself!

 Once they have had their fill, the doves come and have a meal. The doves too have their pecking order, with the larger Cape turtle dove chasing away the laughing dove. The chickens often chase the doves away if they decide to come back for a snack. It's very funny to watch them hurl themselves at the doves, and the doves flap away to sit and watch until they can have another turn. Amusingly, sometimes the doves have a way of opening their wings to make themselves look bigger, and strut around briefly like that while they feed. This could be because the sparrows are waiting! Not long and they come and force their way in between and eat the seeds that get pushed out to the edges.
There is often a huge squabble at this stage, especially when other birds like weavers join in.

Once the birds have eaten, along comes a rat family. Mum, dad and two kids. Initially I was rather horrified, but I've got used to them now. They live in the woodpiles in my neighbour's garden and visit for a breakfast and some supper. I am not going to poison them, because they will make a nice meal for the Burchell's coucal and any owls that might visit. My neighbour recently fixed a wonderful owl box onto the house where the visiting barn owl stayed for a few days (see previous posts) and we are very hopeful that an owl will find it inviting.

It is very amusing to see how the turtle doves chase the rats away, but the funniest thing I've seen so far is when the smallest bantam torpedoed itself out of the bushes towards one that was nibbling away - and almost reached it to give it a peck. It was hilarious and left no doubt as to who rules the roost here!

My ten year old German pointer Lila is a very patient old girl and stands for ages by the chicken coop waiting for the emergence of any rat......