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Thursday, March 4, 2010

Birds of a Feather (Part II)

The chickens, geniuses of egg production, are otherwise somewhat limited by their brain size. Estimates of this size range from "about the size of a man's thumbnail," to "very small, very small." The chicken brain is large enough that the fowl can think to follow a human friend out the garden gate and into the children's yard (generally off limits to poultry). It is small enough that they cannot, unfortunately, find their way back through the open gate to return to the flock. I once watched a chicken spend over an hour cogitating the execution of this very maneuver, but her noblest attempts were thwarted by the ten inches by which she would have had to regress in order to round the corner and reach her goal. In an unscientific display of pity, I gave up my observations and chased her around. She was desperately happy to be home. 

Chanticleer, our handsome though unoriginally-named rooster, is just a little larger than his wives, and it may be that his cranium contains a skosh more grey matter. However intelligent he may or may not be, I'll give him this: he is chivalrous. When scraps are tossed to the birds, Chanticleer is first on the scene. He does not dig in, but calls his hens forth with a deep clucking. They dine, whilst he looks on in attentive detachment. Like a skilled waiter, he stands ready to answer any need without any air of impatience. If a certain hen goes without, Chanticleer approaches, scratching, that he might unearth a morsel for his neglected lady. 

With fifteen wives, Chanticleer rarely goes a day without satisfying his manly needs. His courtship of a hen is something to see, and so strongly resembles a traditional flamenco dance solo that one wonders whether the dancers took original inspiration from a cock. Robust overhead wing-claps, exaggerated gestures left and right with the head and body, and a stacatto stomping bring Chanticleer ever closer to the object of his affection, while she all the while looks on with anything from resignation to disgust. Occasionally, she breaks loose from his mesmerizing gaze and runs, fleeing his molestation. Quitting his romantic gesticulations, he then gives chase, catching her for a quick roll in the hay as often as not. Unfortunately for Chanticleer, only the vigorous young pullets of early summer welcome their new husband's approach; otherwise, his many attempts at seduction inevitably result in lovemaking by force. As much as his displays of amour entertain and delight his human audience, I wonder that he bothers with the trouble of foreplay at all after having been so often spurned. 



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