If you’ve never had a close encounter with a chicken, you’ll find it hard to believe how such a profoundly stupid creature could have survived the evolutionary process.
My grandfather kept them in his garden, just down the road from my first home in a sedate suburb of Bournemouth, but I can’t honestly admit to having been particularly aware of them; I think they were probably discreetly disposed of by the time I was about nine. But before that, he must have gone through the learning process I’ve recently embarked on. Even grandfathers started out as babies, after all.
I’m learning fast, though, and I’m approaching some preliminary judgements about these curious beasts.
For a start, the cocks behave for all the world as if they were immortal, each of them certain in his own superiority to all other cocks, and prepared to fight to the death to prove it.
Secondly, the hens are determined to put themselves in danger. All right, it’s nice to peck around in a great big grassy open space, but haven’t millennia of evolution taught you about predators yet? Come home at night, idiots!
And thirdly, they’re all impossibly perverse. Why, when a clearly superior being like me tries to help guide them in a sensible direction, do they persist in doing the opposite? I try to chase them away from me, they run towards me; try to cajole them, they recoil. It’s almost as if they think they know better – or would be, except that implies a thought process.
In a word – teenagers.