The eyes have it

This is the first in what I hope will be a series of posts concerning the different dispositions and characters of various breeds of livestock. It goes without saying that individuals within breeds may differ from one another in this way but what we’re getting at here are differences in disposition between and among the various animal breeds themselves; the hardwired, rather than differential expression of personality. We believe that these differences are most freely revealed through the eyes, the gaze, and countenance.

Although egg layers and meat birds alike have some (limited) capacity for flight, these animals spend most of their time foraging on the ground. As such, they are exposed to predation by fox, racoon, and other denizens. Free-range birds are very wary. Notice the location of the eyes, widely set on either side of the head. These birds enjoy 300° of panoramic (monocular) vision and 26° of binocular vision; the former allows them to watch for predators (it is very difficult to sneak up on a chicken) while the latter allows them to act as one. In their ever elevated state of nervousness they rarely blink, and when they do, it is only for the briefest of periods. Chickens are always on the move. Ever watchful, they scan about, nervously, as they make their way through lawn, pasture, and meadow. They rarely rest during the day, and when they do they do so with their eyes opened and from a point which provides good vantage (such as high points of  ground or low tree branches).

Hens watch for predators, other hens, and for the rooster. Roosters watch for predators and are constantly looking out for their harem. Hens seem to enjoy themselves in their incessant search for good things to eat; they rarely quarrel. A rooster, on the other hand, must keep track of and breed his hens, all the while working to protect them … a most difficult job, but a good rooster is good at it. Roosters, as perhaps you know, will quarrel with each other, sometimes to mortal ends.

If a chicken were to be transmogrified into human form the result would be a nervous sort, not easy to get to know. I don’t believe the transmogrified bird would be well read or a good conversationalist. The hens would be shallow, gossips, and prone to forming and belonging to cliques. They would be self-absorbed and very much concerned with status. Roosters would be rakish and might appear as Tom Jones did his heyday (or as the comic book character Moose from the Archie series).  They would be well muscled, not at all cerebral, and quick to judge.

Next time you get the chance to watch a free-range flock, consider these characterizations.

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