I had no idea, when we first got chooks, that I’d get so attached. That I’d get so used to having them around. That I’d chat to them as I gardened. That I’d laugh at them. That I would enjoy holding them, stroking their silken feathers. That I’d love them so much. That I’d miss them so very much when they were gone.
We first brought our 5 pullets home on July 2 in 2012. It didn’t take my Dad long to name them Henrietta 1, Henrietta 2, Henrietta 3 and so on. The names stuck.
Jones was also a relatively new addition to our family at the time and he was curious about the new arrivals (that’s him, as a pup, on the far side of the chook house, trying to get in).
Thankfully, he learned to co-exist with the chooks. He developed a healthy respect for them and their sharp beaks.
At one point we adopted our neighbour’s Isa Browns too. It was quite the integration program, because, did you know that if you introduce chickens to one another’s flock as adults without warning and due preparation, they can peck one another to death? There is indeed a pecking order, and heaven forbid you should disrespect it.
Over time we lost chickens to foxes (we think), eagles (possibly – when a chook disappears without a feathery trace, you never know) and lately old age (most likely).
We also lost one chicken to a snake bite. It was a yellow-faced whip snake who did the damage. A small but deadly (to chickens at least) snake. One evening, when calling the chooks into bed, we couldn’t locate Henrietta 5. We looked and searched and called and clucked. Finally, near their water bowl, we found her, prostrate and floppy. Next to her lay the snake, also dead, pecked in two. They had killed one another.
For the past 5 months we’ve been down to one chook. We thought she’d be lonely, but she appeared happy enough. She looked well, had glossy feathers and was defying all odds. She just kept going. She even started laying again, after having put herself into full retirement. Her name was Henrietta. No number, just Henrietta. She was like a pet. She greeted us each morning, each time we arrived home. She loved to spend time hanging out on the verandah with us, in the garden with me. She had personality and character. I just didn’t know that chickens could be so much a part of your family.
Here are some other things I didn’t know about chickens until having our own:
– Chooks answer to their name (well, a specific call at least)
– They put themselves to bed at night, no fuss, no questions asked, no demands
– They let you know when they’re hungry
– They think that painted toe nails, especially red ones are worth a peck in case they’re delicious berries
– Chooks love nothing more that a left-over corn cob, unless of course you have a the bone from a lamb roast and they’ll peck anything or anyone who dares to get between them and the bone (particularly if the hurdle is a Jack Russell terrier)
– When a new car arrives full or guests from the city, chickens love to hop in on top of unsuspecting laps to check things out
– When a Jack Russell terrier jumps into said car full of visitors chasing the chickens, they flap and squawk and carry on causing the visitors to want to return to the city right away.
Chickens are funny and wonderful and entertaining. They are certainly more than simple egg-layers, and they should definitely not be allowed to live in tiny cages, never being able to walk, strutt, and do their thing.
On the weekend, as The Kid and I played Lego inside, Mum and Dad’s dog Jock, paid an unexpected visit to our place. Let’s just say Henrietta must have been like a sitting duck. I had no idea. I wasn’t able to protect her or to save her. I have to believe it was quick and that she felt little. Dad was the one to find Jock. I won’t go into details, but needless to say, we were all incredibly upset.
The Kid sobbed. I shed tears, and even Hubs got all glassy-eyed when he found out. Mum and Dad were and still are devastated. We were all surprised by our reactions, by our sense of loss. It turns out we all loved Henrietta.
Our front yard area now feels empty and the chook house brings us daily sadness, for now. We’re back to buying local eggs and the chook bucket in the kitchen will remain empty. That is, until we get more chooks. And we will.
As I type this, The Kid is sitting on his Dad’s lap paging through one of our books about chooks. He’s choosing which breeds we’ll get next time. He likes the look of the White Sussex, the Australorps and Barnevelders, also the New Hampshires, Leghorns, Rhode Island Reds, Silkies, and maybe even the Wyandottes.
One thing he knows for sure though, as part of mix, he wants at least one Isa Brown, and what will he name her? Henrietta, of course.