Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Just us chickens
I now have a close personal relationship with two broods of sage grouse, and Jim says I’ve got to end it soon. I know he’s right, but I hate to have to do that.
The two broods – one with five youngsters, and one with six, range close together and I started to see them on a section of state ground near an old loading pen at dawn and dusk, so a few weeks ago I started seeking them out. Of course they were alarmed to begin with, when I pulled up in my noisy truck. But I took photos through the driver’s side window, and talked to them, and they soon calmed. I was gradually able to get out of the truck and walk around them, and to sit on the ground in front of them. I talk to them in my human language, and they talk back in their grouse song. What floors me (and should probably embarrass me) is that I never realized how similar these grouse are to domestic chickens we raised on the farm when I was a child. They act and vocalize just like chickens. As a child, I had a favorite hen named Half N Half (she was half white, half red) who used to accompany me on short walks, and would sit on my lap while I read aloud to her. Yes I was reading to a chicken, long before reading therapy animals came in vogue.
My experience with the two sage grouse broods took me back to my childhood. I have been completely tickled when the adolescent grouse walked up beside me to check out the yellow thread hemming my pantleg, titling their heads to the side to watch a hawk fly overhead, being very vocal in song as they take dust baths, and preening their feathers, using a tuff of sagebrush to break the wind. The two hens are far more cautious, but remain about 20 feet away, strolling slowly around the edge of their broods, calling to them and watching me.
I haven’t fed these birds to make them tame. I’ve just been near them in a non-threatening way, and apparently it’s been enough to gain acceptance. I’ve had an extraordinary time getting to know and adore these interesting birds, and will soon start making myself go by them without stopping. They don’t need to know me, but it’s been a pleasure to get to know them just a little.