Here is a common sight around the yard: my Java rooster, whom I named "Valentino" in an ironic moment of inspiration this past Valentine's Day (which was no more or less awful than all other Valentine's Days), displaying his resplendent feathers and guarding one hen.
Why ONE hen? After all, I have three! Well, I'll tell you why. Hen #2 is very, very busy sitting on an empty nest box inside the coop. Will she hatch a chick if her nesting box is empty? No. Does she care? No.
And no, this is not the one that was sitting on an empty nesting box for 23 days a while back. (She, recovered from her hormonal haze, cavorts here in the background.) This is a second one doing the same pointless thing.
And where is hen #3?
I only found out yesterday when I went looking for a rake...
Hen #3, the most reliable egg-layer and also the best bug-finder, had one nesting box (of three) which was her favorite. But that's the one Hen #1 decided to brood on, rendering it unavailable.
So Hen #3 has instead been, on the sly, secretly accumulating her own personal stash of eggs - far from the henhouse, outdoors, in a secret niche of the retaining wall under the carport. She's trying to hatch a pile of eggs much larger than her butt can cover.
Some of them are rolling out of the nest.
She sat there all last night, in high winds and rain. However, because her brooding is sporadic, I doubt these eggs will ever hatch.
These hens seem to have only bits and pieces of the instincts that would allow them to perpetuate their species. "What do chickens do in the wild, then?" asks Zed. I don't believe there is any such thing as a wild chicken.
But to get back to Valentino: I bought the chickens to be entertainment for Jethro the donkey, and anticipated that he, Jethro, would imagine himself protector of the little flock.
But it turned out quite the other way around: Valentino considers Jethro to be a MEMBER of the flock, which means the donkey is in need of Valentino's protection. When people come to feed or play with Jethro, Valentino rushes up and attacks them, all his neck feathers up in an Elizabethan ruffle. It's very inconvenient.
He isn't so bad with me, maybe because I, too, am a member of his flock, or maybe because every time he tries to play Big Man on Campus with me I scoop him up and take him indoors and rock him in my rocking chair, reminding him that I knew him when he was an egg.
If nobody is watching, he will coo and make contemplative murmuring sounds as I stroke his head. But if a person (or, worse, one of his hens) is watching, he will squawk indignantly.
Before and after: Valentino on Yom Kippur in September 2007, and yesterday.