I train all my chickens to come when I call them. A loud clucking sound like the noise chickens make to tell each other there is something tasty to eat, combined with a high-pitched call of ‘chicken, chicken,’ tells the young birds it’s time to get their scratch grains. The chickens are so accustomed to having their morning treat of mixed cracked corn and whole oat grains that they hang around outside the house after they wake up, waiting for the human to appear. There are always plenty of poultry feed and free range pickings available, but the scratch grain must be so delectable that chickens will wait patiently for hours to get it.
As soon as I appear at the door, chickens come running. They follow me in a long line down to the barn and stand around watching me expectantly until I get the marvelous treat out of the grain bin for them. On days when my granddaughter Lia visits, she very much enjoys helping feed the chickens. The young birds trail after her now, too, since they have seen her dishing out the precious scratch feed. We spread the grain on the concrete floors of an old section of the barn that I’m tearing down.
Lia is only two-and-a-half, but she has quickly picked up how to take handfuls of grain and scatter it around for the birds to eat. Then we like to stand back and watch them. I take this opportunity to count the chickens, assure everyone looks healthy, and make decisions about sorting them for future breeding or sale. The hand feeding helps to tame the animals, making them more interested in humans, more trusting and less prone to panic. Some of the birds are so friendly they will let me approach and gently scoop them up. They also shadow me during other times of the day and talk to me in their funny chicken language. Perhaps trying to convince me to hand out more scratch grain.