I’ve been a bit lax. My by-line is, a writer, teacher, mother, chicken-keeper’s blog and until now, I’ve neglected that last tag. Let me come clean – I’m a novice at raising hens, but I’m learning fast. We started with 5 and the intention of getting more asap, but lost 2 to some kind of infection or virus – that’s a 40% death rate. Maybe I need to learn faster. In any case, it’s damned hot in the desert between June and August so we won’t rush to increase our flock and put more chooks at risk.
Our 3 hens are not all hens as it turns out. At 3 months old it was hard to differentiate, but now we know for sure that Henny Penny is actually Cocky Locky. He’s even started the cock-a-doodle-doo business at dawn. We should have guessed. He was trouble from the beginning, bullying the others and placing himself at the top of the pecking order from day one. Still, he’s cute and getting friendlier. He’s always the first to come running when he sees me, giving me a verbal verdict on the lunch menu. There’s a croon for when he’s satisfied and a rooster version of tutting when he’s disappointed. Here he is:
Next in the pecking order is Lady Grey. As my daughter, Layla, has pointed out, ‘She doesn’t really act like a lady.’ She should fit in here fine. Lady Grey was probably a seagull in a former life. She reminds me of those huge grey and white gulls that used to drive my mum crazy when she put out a clean wash. They always appeared (bellies apparently full and ready to deposit) on the day she did her whites. Lady Grey is the shyest of the 3 but is also the fastest runner and the highest flier. I nearly gave up trying to get a pic of her:
And then there’s Ginger, Layla’s favourite. She survived the infection that killed Rosie and Lulu (I didn’t have the heart to tell Layla about Lulu – I lied and said she’s in the Hen Hospital). The 3 who took ill were the youngest and weakest, so Ginger is special because she survived. She’s now the most curious and more daring of the pack of 3. She was the first to jump up onto the highest point of the porch. The other 2, bigger and tougher, followed her lead. Here’s Ginger:
So why did they want to eat that cardboard box? I mean I feed them well and often, but they were pecking away as if their lives depended on it. Well, it seems they’re very partial to Polystyrene.
I’ve decided I love chickens. They make great pets. I wasn’t thinking beyond the Free Range eggs when we bought them, but now I realise they all have their own, distinct personalities. Humans can actually build a relationship with chickens.
I still feel sad when I think about the 2 we lost – those tiny, stiff bodies with the oversized feet were immensely humbling and sobering sights. Life is temporary and can be snatched away from us in a second. We all have to face and accept our own mortality and somehow transcend the dread during our lifetime. What reminded me that this is easier said than done? Picking up a dead chicken and being too much of a coward to tell my 4-year-old that Lulu was gone for good.