Last week I discussed the relative merits of goats and chickens with Roger Burr, a colleague at the high school where I teach. Roger’s a goat man, having formed an affection for them in his youth, and figures a pygmy goat would make a welcome addition to his Decatur home. His wife, he says, doesn’t have to be talked into this idea, being, as he puts it, pro-goat. The Burrs, it seems to me, are a remarkably well-matched couple.
Roger Burr, fair-minded as he is, demurred, claiming a friend of his had owned a pet chicken whom he’d taught to go down a slide. At this I expressed disbelief. Roger hastened to add that the chicken did not climb the ladder unassisted – that would be ridiculous – her owner carried her up, but when placed in position at the top, the chicken would go down unassisted.
This, although I did not say so at the time, seemed less an evidence of “training” than the operation of gravity. There is a wide and spacious difference between training a chicken to do something and doing something to a chicken.
This chicken savant of Roger’s friend came to a sad end, I’m sorry to say. According to Roger, the chicken “knew enough” (Roger’s words, not mine) to get out of the way as soon as she reached the bottom, because her owner would come sliding down right after her. Once, however, she forgot this vital safety procedure, and was still standing on the landing pad when her owner completed his descent. Once was all it took.