Before I plunge into a narrative of what I saw today, I should set the scene. My current flock consists of, in descending order of age:
A. Three Buff Orpingtons, fat and yellow and indistinguishable from each other. Poor layers all, two of them have been broody since the beginning of summer.
B. Two Rhode Island Reds and one Barred Rock, all in their second year, and laying well.
C. A gaggle of eight pre-pubertal pullets of various breeds who keep to themselves and have a wonderful time.
Another fact worth remembering, and one that I have documented in these pages, is that one of my hens has, in the past, occasionally been heard to crow. This has always happened early in the morning, before I serve them breakfast, so I\’ve never been able to figure out who was doing the crowing. But somebody was definitely sounding rooster-like.
This evening I was outside reading Elisabeth Bailey\’s The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating when I looked up and saw two hens…mating. I have had roosters before, so I know whereof I speak. What I saw was not the half-hearted, playful reciprocal mounting of cows or bitches in heat. What I saw looked earnest and businesslike.
The usual scenario runs like this: the rooster struts a bit and does a little sideways dance with one wing pointed downwards, then looks around and mounts the nearest hen, grabbing her neck feathers with his beak, \”treading\” her back with his feet and doing his best to stay balanced. Then there is a shuddering and a fluffing of feathers and he jumps off and the hen fluffs her feathers and they both go about their separate business.
What I saw today did not include any strutting or dancing (but then, I was deep into my book, so I may have missed it), but one of the Orpingtons got on top of one of the Rhode Islands, and the neck grabbing, the treading and the shuddering and the fluffing of feathers happened exactly as it used to when there was a patriarch in the flock.
I have not looked up \”gay hens\” on Google, because I\’m afraid of the sites it might lead me to, so I\’ve no idea how unusual this behavior might be. I\’m just a clueless country dweller reporting the extraordinary stuff that goes on right under my nose.