Why We Call People Chicken


Chicks at the door.
Chicks at the door.

This isn’t a scientific study, just some chicken coop observation. My chickens are a bunch of chickens. We got them when they were about a week and a half old, some New Hampshire, some Rhode Island, a couple of Ameraucanas and a White Leghorn rooster. After building the whole chicken coop and run, my husband still had to construct a box, with a light bulb to keep them warm and cozy for a little while longer. Then he said he was done. So it was my turn, to do something other than talk and write and read about chickens. First things first, keep things clean. That brings to mind another chicken expression that I won’t repeat here.

Baby chicks kept warm under a light bulb.
Baby chicks kept warm under a light bulb.

Whenever I opened the door to their little box, they would all crowd up in the back together, making me snatch the newspaper from under their chicken feet. When they got bigger and I left the door open for them to come out of their box, it wasn’t until a couple of them got pushed out from behind, that they ventured to flutter their wings and run around their spacious coop.

I had to scoot the rest of them out, or they might have deliberated about it for another twenty four hours. So what did they do? They all ran into a corner and huddled next to each other, not a curious one in the bunch. But they are awful cute. They make little baby chirping noises that must have alerted predators from miles around by now. I have to admit they have plenty to be chicken about. My husband is craftier than any fox though, and so far there haven’t been any overnight raids. After a couple of days roaming the chicken coop on their own, they now run around and flutter their wings, and have found their food and water. They feel secure enough not to run into a huddle when I appear at the door.

The weather has warmed up considerably around here this week, and I thought I would open the hatch to the chicken run and let them peck around a bit and get some sunshine. But, they’re a bunch of chickens. Fast chickens. I felt like the star in a comedy routine chasing them around the coop trying to get them out their little door. My strategy was to corner one, pick it up and just put it at the top of the ramp, but they scrambled back in quicker than I could try to shove any of them out, so I decided to let them do it in their own sweet time.

I’m still waiting. Yesterday I went inside their run, opened their door and watched. So did my cat King Arthur, licking his lips and twitching his tail. The chicks crowded around the door together and looked outside, and then turned around and went back in. Today a couple of them ventured just a little bit further, as you can see in the video, but then in true chicken hearted fashion ran as fast as they could back inside. And that’s why we call people chicken when they’re afraid to try something they’ve never done before.

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