I had 4 hens, who were rescued battery hens. I built a large chicken run and they were happy little things until one by one, three of them died of old age. This left me with one surviving hen.
As she no longer has the company of the other hens, I let her out of the chicken run during the day so she can roam the whole of the garden; I figure she may as well be as happy as possible because I don’t think she’ll be alive for much longer.
I was watching the lone hen eating bird seed which had fallen from my hanging bird feeder. As I watched, a couple of pigeons, a dove and some other birds flew from the trees and joined her. Birds united proceeded to peck around in the dirt without a care in the world.
I realised that if my cat or one of my dogs were laying out in the garden, minding their own business, not a single bird would venture to where the bird seed was for fear of being chased, eaten or humped.
My hen is probably bigger than my cat, yet a whole assortment of birds will mingle with the hen but not come near the smaller (less aggressive) cat. This means that birds can either recognise or sense other birds so do not feel threatened, which is indicative of either an awareness or perception which for such a small animal, with a relatively small brain, is quite remarkable.
Is it the shape? The smell? A noise? A sixth sense?
The moment my cat appears from behind the shed, there’s the sudden noise of beating wings as various birds make a hasty retreat to the surrounding trees. When the hen suddenly runs across the garden from the bushes to where she thinks there’s food, the other birds don’t even seem to notice.
The hen is definitely scarier than the cat- just ask the dogs, who are forever being chased and bullied by the hen if she’s in a bad mood.
One day, the rest of the birds will be in for a nasty shock when after seeing off the dogs and the cat, my hen starts her flappy, squawky, kung-fu crap with them; kicking each and every last tail feather.