Chickens are dumb, right? Think again. My chickens not only answer to their names but they have an innate sense of when they can escape their yard to forage in the garden. Indeed, White-tail has a habit of waiting for the right moment to nip into the laundry, up the stairs, and into the kitchen… not waiting for us to bring scraps out.
Brrrck Brrck,Buk, there she is, pinching biscuits from the dog’s bowl, for all the world completely at home. Peppa (Poodle) and Farley (Heeler x) have become so used to White-tail’s antics, that they no longer show any interest or inclination in removing her from their food bowl.
But the minute Jill or I walk into the kitchen we get a baleful glance, a quiet Brrrck… and White-tail heads for the stairs – taking her time about it, but acknowledging she knows her time is up. As we exit together, we usually find Honey inside checking out the laundry while the other hens are lined up at the doorstep like the row of smiling clowns at the sideshows. This, despite them having their own perfectly large pen down the back of the yard.
Each day, I become more used to the little personality traits of each individual, for example the little hesitation Hanna shows, just that moment before she decides to dash into the house – knowing she’ll be chased right back out. It’s a game!
I thought that might change last weekend when I trimmed their wings. I could fully understand them resenting the trimming of their freedom and independence, but to my surprise, no. With the exception of Elle who complained vociferously as I trimmed each wing, all of the girls gave me a Brrck, cluck and settled in my lap to accepts the ministrations. Honey perched on my knee for all the world like a parrot, her soft warm toes clinging to my leg for stability.
Instead of alienating me from the girls, somehow I feel the experience has brought us closer, we each understand each other better. Has it stopped the daily visits to the house? Not on your life! – I said we had an understanding; they understand I’m a softy at heart and enjoy their company and I know that I could build fort knox, and they will find a way over, under or through - as they have proved repeatedly this past week.
Poultry can be wonderful pets for children too, requiring only basic care and maintenance, and like any pet, clean and hygienic housing. Council regulations dictate their numbers and location, but beyond that you can sit back and enjoy some absolutely wonderful times.
Beware however, the pitfalls of buying young chickens - so cute and adorable for sure - but they grow up. Having spent weeks and months nuturing and raising a chick only to have it grow into a rooster (prohibited in most suburban properties), to then have to get rid of it can be heart-rending. Better to know what you are getting.
Also, they’re not all alike… as well as coming in many varieties, their personalities differ tremendously too. Go along to the poultry section of your next local show... have a look at the different breeds on show; observe their different temperaments, talk to the breeders, and choose for yourself- the ideal companion for your family.
I’ve written this article to appeal to the young families and elderly alike, who may overlook the benefits of poultry as pets. Low maintenance companionship, stress relief, and yes, fresh eggs too! A touch of humour every day in your own back yard, hopefully you too will choose to experience how much fun a simple chook can be as a pet.