Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Animal Communication on the Farm

Avo and Finley as his "peep"

Lately, I have seen evidence of communication between chickens and sheep.

First, we noticed Avo the rooster is able to call Phoebe, our blind ewe, to food. When we throw "salad" (garden weeds) into the sheep pen Avo engages in "tidbitting," a form of communication between a rooster and his hens, where the rooster picks up a found object (usually edible), drops it repeatedly while clucking, in an attempt to draw his hens to him. Because Phoebe is blind, she can't easily find her pile of weeds as her son Finley can find his. So Avo tidbits over her weed pile until she locates it by the sound.

Sunday I discovered our sheep understand rooster warnings. While the sheep were grazing the garden paths under my supervision, Avo noticed the neighbor's dog through the fence running on the far side of their property. Chickens have a disctinctive high trill for airborne predators, and a low growl for ground predators. Avo let out a long, low growl and Finley, who was grazing with his back to the fence and could not possibly have seen the dog, jumped up in the air and ran to me, clearly understanding there was danger.

Finley and I have our own communication language. He has a way of "pawing" me when he wants attention. It's his way of saying "I want." If I mimic his motions first, he understands that if he comes I will pet him. Here are a couple of videos.

He is more like a dog than a sheep, and he wasn't a bottle baby.  He loves attention so much I call him the mutton glutton!


colleen said...

So sweet! I've always thought they could communicate well with each other no matter the species. How lucky you are to be able to experience that first hand.

Kateri said...

That is really cool. I'm trying to figure out what animals to put in my little animal barn, you are making me want to have sheep to go along with the chickens.

Callie said...

Finley is so cute. Wonder if our chickens would like a nice warm sheep to sleep on this winter?

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Awww! That is so sweet! Good for you learning the communication signals. You are like a modern day Dr. Doolittle. I love that your roo is helping out your blind ewe, too.


Anonymous said...

sage, maybe I'll fly my stupid dog out to you so you can tell me what the heck she is saying.

I spend a lot more time talking and listening to that dog than I spend with my wife.

But, every morning when I tell her to " fetch " , she acts crazy and starts dancing and saying all kind of crazy stuff.

I really like your blog this morning ; maybe chickens have a little dog in them after all ..........bob

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