The Pesky Chicken

Petunia is happiest when she’s off the ground, and shoulders are a top perching choice for her.

I never thought I’d tire of having our little Barred Leghorn flap up to perch on my shoulder. Petunia’s all feathers, really—a lean, spry little thing, no heavier than a loaf of bread.

She has toenails, though—sharp ones! And she has a powerful little beak and a bad habit of pecking the backs of our heads and shoulders in search of edible morsels. At first, she only flapped up occasionally, tilting her head from side to side to gauge the distance and strategize a flight path.

These days she’s more confident, arriving suddenly on our shoulders amidst a cloud of feathers and dust. This morning, Kelly wiped down scratches on my back with hydrogen peroxide after I took an ill-advised trip to open the coop wrapped only in a towel following my morning shower.

I’ve decided that Petunia takes us for granted, that she has come to see us as purveyors of treats and handy vantage points from which to catch a better glimpse of her surroundings. Kelly gives her the benefit of the doubt and remains convinced that Petunia is just highly social and enjoys our companionship. This may also be true.

I have to wonder, though, what her crash landings on our heads and shoulders will feel like when she is full grown and whether there is some way to train chickens in the etiquette of personal boundaries.

I’ve begun reading Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens, by Gail Damerow, and take comfort in the knowledge that the book does contain a section on chicken training. I’ll keep you posted.

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