I worry that my animals are bored.
What does a domesticated animal do all day? I understand the wild ones. They’re busy getting food, finding mates, rearing young, and attending Hunter Evasion classes. But pets and livestock have it easy. Food and water arrive on schedule. Mates, when necessary, are procured. Hunters are prohibited.
What occupies their minds?
In the summer, I worry less. The chickens are busy around the property, finding greens, chasing insects, and taking dust baths. Likewise, the cat goes outside to stalk chipmunks and eat things that will make her vomit on the rug. But in winter, everyone stays inside. The chickens are confined to an 8’x16’ run and, while the cat has marginally more freedom, she spends 80% of her time within three feet of the wood stove.
What are they thinking?
They can’t read, or talk. They can’t tell time, either, but are they doing the animal equivalent of watching the clock? Some animals certainly get bored. When you come home to find the toilet paper unwound all over the furniture, you know your dog doesn’t have enough to do. And I’ve heard stories about pigs that make me a believer in really good fencing.
But a cat? Chickens? Can you be bored witless if you’re pretty much witless to begin with? I can’t imagine not being bored, if you can’t read.
Kevin’s been out of town for over a week now, so it’s just me and the animals. The cat gets fed and scratched, and I try to engage her in conversation; the only time she looks unhappy is when there isn’t a fire in the woodstove. The chickens, though, seem restless. They bunch up at the door when they hear me coming, and seem to want to mill around me even when I don’t bring them a special treat.
So, today, I bought them a Flock Block. A Flock Block is a 25-pound cube of compressed nuts, seeds, and grit, and it’s supposed to supplement their standard-issue feed as it “encourages natural pecking instincts to help reduce cannibalism.”
Mostly, though, it’s what passes for intellectual stimulation, if you’re a chicken.