Chicken Love

My mum’s hairdresser, a woman I’ve never met, recently asked my mum, ‘How are Helen’s chickens? Is she still in love with them?’ That a complete stranger would ask about my chickens is testament to how much I talk about my Girls and oddly enough, how much my mum must talk about them.

Four months on the answer to that question is a most emphatic yes! I did fall in love with my chickens when they arrived and the love and enjoyment has only grown. You know how some people adore animals and always feel drawn to them? I’ve never been one. I hated dogs from birth. We had a dog when I was three and I spent two weeks on the couch and once the dog chewed up dad’s garden hose and tomatoes, the poor wee thing was given to a family who wanted her more. We had other pet dogs over the years, breeds less likely to chew things and bark and I loved them because I knew them well but as a population, dogs freak me out.

Cats I find kind of creepy and unfeeling (although my sister talks about her cat the way I talk about my chickens, so I’ve learned to overcome the cat thing a bit).

all three

Chickens have turned out to be the most obvious pets for a couple who wanted some animal company but weren’t sure on the right species. Our Girls are such a warm, fun part of the landscape of our garden now that I find it amazing I was ever a bit nervous about them arriving.

Four months on, their habits and personalities have become so much clearer and well known. Some friends who have chickens advised us early on that watching them would be like Chook TV. They weren’t wrong. Countless hours have been given over to watching them and laughing. And I think the experience has been as positive for them as it is for us. Why yes I am anthropomorphising my pets! I’m fairly certain that if we weren’t treating them well we’d be able to tell from their behaviour and so the fact that we are treating them incredibly well is equally clear.

Here’s an example. We have a sliding door at the back of our house and pretty early on they learned to identify the sound. On hearing it, the girls leap up from wherever they are and race excitedly towards the front of the enclosure. Immediately they start pacing, often leaping over each other as if they can somehow break through the wire and race towards The Lady with the Food.

They’ve become so attuned to our presence at the back section of the house now that we sometimes don’t even have to open the sliding door. I can walk across that room, close to the door and they’ll become alert and run to the wire fence.

You’d think I starved them from the way they behave so desperate for food but I’m pretty sure that’s general animal behaviour. Someone might feed me! Quick! Look excited!

Like children, I try not to have favourites but I must confess that for me, the red one, Shirley, has nestled closest to my heart. I think she’s the silliest one. She’s my run away. Most times if there’s an escapee, it’s Shirley. She’s the one who’s most likely to nip closely at my heels when I’m leaving the enclosure. Many’s the time I’ve had push her gently away with my foot.

shirley

She’s also the one who most often lets me pick her up and stroke her. Sometimes if she’s in the nest laying an egg, I’ll stroke her back (the feathers are so soft) and she doesn’t brush me off. I think she genuinely enjoys physical comfort. Last week I called my nephew Willem and told him that Shirley let me pick her up and have a real cuddle. He laughed and said ‘that’s crazy!’ I defy him to say that when she lets Willem (who, if you recall, was the one who named her Shirley) have a cuddle.

And then there’s Lady Catherine de Bourgh.

lady catherine

My instincts were right when I chose her for that name (the names came first – the assigning of the names followed). She’s the one who aggressively flies up to knock food out of my hands. She’s often first out out of the coop. When I was sitting on a log taking these photos, she was the one staring at the camera, trying to peck it, pushing the others out of the way. She’s assertive and frankly a little arrogant but you can’t help but love her when she stands proud and tall over her sisters. I think she’s a protector.

Miss Matty wasn’t keen on being photographed. In the photo above she’s the one busy eating and not paying much attention. She’s not assertive. She’s not an escapee. I think Miss Matty, true to her namesake (Miss Matty Jenkyns), is sweet and defers a little too much to her sisters.

And then there are the eggs. Oh the eggs. I first thought that three eggs a day wouldn’t build up very quickly. I remember thinking, only three a day? That’s not many. But have a few days where you don’t eat any eggs and suddenly you’re able to give half a dozen away. Or a dozen. Or you’re looking for egg recipes. We eat poached eggs for breakfast every weekend. We eat baked custard tarts. We eat potato and egg salad. And still we’re able to give them away. That feels really, really good. And it might sound corny but I say thank you to the girls when I collect their warm, brown eggs. It’s the least I can do.

Finally, the most fun I have with them is discovering what they love to eat. They love yoghurt that’s gone a bit off (I know! Yuk!), the watery seeds scraped out of cucumbers, spaghetti, porridge and the bloated, oversized zucchinis I discover in the garden. Bacon rind chopped up is a firm favourite and they love tinned tuna (we buy the generic brand tins for them – cheap as chips and offered as a special treat once in a while). Sometimes we just grab something from the fridge and say ‘do you think the girls will like this?’ Only one way to find out!

I’m already thinking of adding to the brood next spring.

bottoms up

When I see them like this, I wonder if this is the origin of the phrase ‘heads down, tails up’!

Bells

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29 thoughts on “Chicken Love

  1. Pingback: Hug A Chicken Day 2012 | Bellsknits

  2. Pingback: World, Meet Dorcas | Bellsknits

  3. It was great hearing about your chickens, we recently gave ours away as they were pecking their own eggs. I gave them to a friend who has a mini petting farm as the “girls” were really friendly and had soo much personality. They arent the smartest animal in the barn but they definately DO have personality.

  4. Gorgeous!
    I do hope their cage is super secure from foxes and local dogs.
    We lost our chooks to foxes digging into the cage, and I haven’t wanted to have more chooks ever since.

    Yours are beautiful tho – so shiny and healthy looking/.

  5. Try them on sunflower seeds – the little grey ones. Mine go nuts. They know whenever I have a handful. They will do anything for sunflower seeds!

  6. I love that you have named each of these beauties – especially Shirley. I keep trying to convince Jim that we need a chicken coop. I don’t think he’s buying what I’m selling…

  7. We had a neighbour’s chook “adopt” us at our last house. She was lovely company when I was out in the garden and used to lay in our lavender bush. I really missed her when we moved!

  8. I love all animals and do like to hear about your chickens as we can’t have them here. We have a fox family living locally and it would be just a flurry of feathers!!

  9. great photos, and lady catherine does look aptly named! sounds like a backyard paradise there with the chooks and your lush garden. and hooray for the eggs (and tarts – yum!)

  10. Oh just wait until they moult. One of ours was strutting around in all her finery and begging the other two to not take food from the Evil One (me). Two weeks ago, she suddenly dropped about half her feathers. She looks ridiculous, and now comes running when she sees me go near the garage (where the grain is kept) and pecks the others to get out of her way, feed me GRAINS! GRAINS!
    (But our chooks are useless, I only had about two weeks of 3 eggs a day, then none for a month now cos it is hot and they are moulting.)

  11. Love this post Bells. Our animals have thier special way of working themselves into our hearts. We can’t help but love them and care about thier welfare. I remember when Paul and I had our first cat Andazi. We loved him and he really taught us how to care about someone other than eachother. he taught us so much. So there is lots of good things about having pets. And thanking them for the eggs is only good manners, I think. Looking forward to seeing them in a few weeks and gathering some of their lovely eggs for myself.

  12. i cant imagine a life without animals in it. im always a little suss of people who dont like animals. i love how much joy you are getting from your chooks, and how well and healthy and happy they look. and i loved discovering that chooks actually had personalities tool, how cool to know your naming was spot on!

  13. It sounds soooo relaxing to have chooks, I would love chooks, but so far DH has resisted and I am not sure how the dog would like them…..maybe she would love them too much.

  14. BIG SIGH!! Oh Bells, once again I LOVE how eloquently you write! I read your blog everyday, and this may sound corny too, but it’s one of life’s little pleasures in my day. Tracy (Melbourne)

  15. I really miss having chickens, my dad used to own them. They always had really wonderful dark yolks but I think it might have been from the silverbeet they used to eat from the garden. My son used to always pick up the chickens at the animal farm and sit on a haybale and just cuddle it for ages. He wasnt even interested in anything else so enjoy your special cuddles with your favourite hen!

  16. Cooo! Gurgle! How loverly! I love your chooks, too. Of COURSE you thank them for the eggs!

    And oh how wonderful they must be to cuddle. Sigh.

  17. It doesn’t sound corny at all to thank them for their eggs. I agree it’s the least you can do. Sometimes I wonder if it frustrates chickens, always laying eggs but never getting any chicks. It must confuse their natural instincts.

    Oh, dogs. They’re not my favorite, either. Whenever I step aside from a strange dog, the owner invariably says, “Oh, he doesn’t bite.” I’m not worried it’s going to bite. I don’t want it slobbering all over me, sniffing me, rubbing up against me. I don’t assume everyone will like my children and want them all over. It’s strange how many people who like dogs assume everyone must like dogs…

  18. I’m glad the excitement is still there. The chickens look happy and you sound happy. It’s a win/win situation for everyone. I’ve always wondered how noisy they are. Do they cluck much or make other noises?

    • Excellent question Donna Lee! This is a breed that’s supposed to be pretty placid and mostly they are. They get a bit frustrated if they’re locked in the coop and they often wake us up around dawn. I used to worry about the neighbours but our neighbours have dogs that often bark in the night. At least my girls wait til it’s light!

      Mostly they just cluck amongst themselves. Once in a while one of them will make a racket and it’s usually aimed at some passing bird overhead. But the rest of the time, it’s just contented clucking!

  19. What a fun post, Bells! Still working up my nerve to do it, but am loving living vicariously. (Though I wish I lived vicariously AND closer, to get some of those yummy eggs!)

  20. I was 12 when our family first got chooks and I also loved picking them up and cuddling them (we had a poodle, she wasn’t as cuddly). But they often had fleas so I would go back inside covered in fleas which made my mother cranky.

    We also used to give them bacon rinds, but we’d leave them in 5cm long pieces so they’d think they were worms 🙂

  21. It’s lovely to have an animal friend (or friends) that you love. No matter what type of animal, they do become part of the family.

    And animals with added benefits, like eggs – very cool. I love the idea of giving away the excess. I always mean to do this with my herbs but keep forgetting to actually snip some for friends!

  22. Oh Bells, you make me laugh (as does Lady Catherine); how lovely that your chooks are such a great part of your life. I can’t believe it’s been 4 months already. I love the idea of you looking in the fridge from more strange food to feed them!

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