Thursday, July 26, 2012

Be careful, the hens bite

My girls really are not vicious, but they love food.  I mean, LOVE food.  And they know that my hands bring treats so they watch my hands constantly.  I've learned over the years to not carry things in my hands if I don't want them to eat it.  I have baskets for picking fruit and berries from the garden.  Another basket for collecting eggs.  If I take anything outside that I don't want them pecking at, I put it inside something else as a cover.

Thankfully, chickens don't have big beaks and don't have teeth.  Or I'd probably be missing a few fingers by now.  Both Coco and Spice will latch onto the end of a finger and chomp down and pull.  It really smarts.  You forget how many nerves one has in their fingers until this happens.  While they've never drawn blood, I always caution guests, especially with small children, to make fists, don't eat in front of the hens, and don't hold your hands out in front of them.

My poor husband learned this the hard way last night.  I had let the hens into the big garden while I went about doing a few chores.  He came out to say hello to the girls and noticed all the cherry tomatoes that were ripe and proceeded to pick some.  I suggested he grab one of the baskets from the garage to put them in but he said he was good.

Well, it didn't take long before he had a circle of hens standing around watching him.  He knelt down to say hello to the ladies and he got rolled for his goods.  Coco lunged at him first and plucked a tomato right out of his fist.  Spice when in for the kill next.  But she got part of his finger in the process.  This caused him to drop the tomatoes and the feeding frenzy ensued.  At first I was laughing until I noticed that Spice was trying to eat them whole.  I quickly caught her and extracted the tomato from her mouth and smashed it in my hand and gave it back to her.

Ginger is not aggressive at all and will patiently wait for a tomato to be presented to her.  So I picked her up and set her up on the stoop with two smashed tomatoes to nibble.  This keeps her out of the feeding frenzy and gives her a chance to eat them uninterrupted.

All the while, I'm just busting up laughing as my husband is standing there trying to figure out what just happened.  He's telling me that my hens are vicious and I say I know this.  It's all my fault and I fully realize this.

I hand feed them a treat almost every day and so they know where to look for treats.  And the aggressive hen always gets a bit more than the others.  But I do watch this and make sure that my two docile hens, Ginger and Honey, get their fair share of treats.  It's amazing how smart they are and these two will go to their safe places, up on the cinder block or up on the back stoop and wait for me to put a treat in front of them.  There, they can take their time and eat slowly and not worry that Coco or Spice might take it right out of their beak.  Which they will given half a chance to do so.

My husband took what few tomatoes he had left and put them in the kitchen and came back out eating a snack.  I looked at him and said, are you completely insane?  Once again, and without warning, he had all four hens lined up at his feed staring up at his snack.  He immediately did a 180 and went back into the safety of the house.

I don't know what it is that makes a hen become aggressive.  I have two that are and two that are not and I raised them all the same.  So the best I can offer is a gentle warning to visitors and guests.  The hens bite!  Mind your fingers and above all else, do NOT eat in front of the ladies.


  1. That is so funny! I have given my original chickens treats from my hands too. When I go in now Pepper and Dotty run to me to see if I have anything for them and if I don't I hold out my hands to show them. So far they have only taken a quick peck at the stones in my ring.
    The new girls are not used to this yet and don't come to my hands at all.

  2. Too funny! At least hubby is learning. LOL! Several of my chickens used to jump straight up to grab whatever I had in my hand (fingers included). Lulu on the other hand is gentle. She can usually eat out of my hand and not even touch me with her beak. She gently picks up whatever I am holding - usless it is shelled sunflower seeds, then she grabs pieces of my palm trying to eat a mouthful of seeds. I think it is because she doesn't have any competition that she can take the time to be gentle.