Peter Lennox: The Origin of ‘Pecking Order’

urbanchickenMy Dad raised chickens in our suburban Sacramento backyard when I was growing up. Their cluck and brrrr and creak formed a soundtrack outside my bedroom window. Many of our legendary family stories involve a chicken in one way or another.

As urban farming gains in popularity and there are debates in D.C. about whether it’s legal to raise chickens at the White House (How About a White House Chicken Flock?), I found Peter Lennox’s recent article Pecking Order to be funny, wry, informative, and even touching.

In addition, the comments from readers are a great plus. They include many stories on the varying levels of chicken intelligence (“they’re not all the sharpest beaks in the coop”) and one reader concludes she’s much rather spend time with her chickens than most of the management consultants she knows.

Enjoy a quick excerpt below:

Keeping chickens may not be the most efficient way to source eggs, of course, but then it depends on what is being measured. I benefit from eggs, mobile garden ornaments, endless amusement and companionship; I even learn from them. My nine-year-old budding evil-scientist son has learnt that evolution can go down as well as up, and that ground-feeding birds can, over generations, get larger and lose the ability to fly. He also discovered that rigging up a chicken catapult baited with corn can improve individuals’ flying skills, but is not likely to reverse the evolutionary trend and is very likely to get you into trouble. Fair enough: he also learnt to take care of them and understand their preferences and behaviour; he teaches them things, and they patiently go along with it as long as some tasty titbit is part of the deal.

Put that way, keeping chickens is a lot more efficient than driving to the supermarket for eggs of unknown heritage. Ours are great eggs with big golden-orange yolks that sit like perfect hemispheres in the pan. Hardly surprising, as these are gourmand chickens: they eat what we eat (chicken excepted, of course). They like sweetcorn, peas, pasta and rice. They love steak and cooked bacon rind. In the course of evolution, I don’t know where chickens developed a taste for cooked pig. Maybe a freak accident: a bolt of lightning; a forest fire; an unfortunate pig … They also like prawns, salmon, cake and bread, and ironically are rather partial to sage and onion stuffing. They are also fans of strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, gooseberries, carrot tops, cabbage leaves, grass, shoots – especially the ones you’ve just planted. And they turn all this rather efficiently into eggs and excrement.

Read the rest of Peter Lennox’s Pecking Order.