WHEN we moved two blocks to gain one bedroom in 2012, the place came already stocked with hens and goldfish.
The ISA Browns didn't lay any longer.
They were absolutely ancient in chicken years.
But we liked having them around and they liked having our kitchen scraps. It was win-win.
When the chickens met their maker, we simply ordered three more of the brown birds with the big personalities.
Ruby. Rosie. Ristretto. (No prizes for guessing which one my barista-in-a-former-life-husband named!)
Those chickens have outlived all of the original goldfish and two wayward turtles that Santa delivered early one Christmas morning as if by magic.
While we fortunately had the required reptile keeper's licence we flunked the keeping role big-time.
MORE MATERIAL GIRL:
- Shopping for staples the new game of strategy
- We're all in it together, jigsaw puzzles and Monopoly aside
- In times like these, you learn to live again
- Our privacy concerns are already pie in the sky
- Sit tight folks, we'll catch you on the other side
- We're free to care now but don't burst the bubble
- It's standing room only as Victorian lockdown hits home
But the chickens have stuck with us through thick and thin (toast and sandwich crusts). Ristretto passed away first a few years ago, leaving only the decaffeinated layabouts to knock around together. They did all of the usual things happy hens do like sharing scraps and playing chicken.
But the chickens have stuck with us through thick and thin (toast and sandwich-sliced crusts).
Ristretto passed away first a few years ago, leaving only the decaffeinated layabouts to knock around together.
They did all of the usual things happy hens do like sharing scraps and playing chicken.
They soared across the lawn the second they spied something tasty from afar.
Watching them eat pesto spaghetti leftovers is one of my favourite pastimes! (I wish I was kidding.)
Then one day Ruby changed.
At first I thought a neighbour had got a new rooster after hearing crowing early some mornings.
Then Ruby's comb and wattle suddenly started growing bigger.
She acquired long tail feathers, white ones.
We did the only thing we could do and Googled for answers.
Turns out chickens can sometimes undergo natural sex changes.
According to Wikipedia in the absence of a functional left ovary, the dormant right sex organ may begin to grow; if the activated right gonad is an ovotestis or testes, it will begin secreting androgens. The hen does not completely change into a rooster, however. (My husband also confirmed it with a poultry farmer.)
We tried telling that to Rosie but she was not having a bar of it.
She refused to share the good scraps ie. pesto pasta with Ruby. I had to divide the spoils and feed them separately so the boss bird wouldn't hog the crusts.
The crowing and hen-pecking continued unabated.
We fully expected the council to show up and confiscate our raucous rooster.
Then after one too many episodes of Gardening Australia during the national lockdown, we made over the hen house with an xylophone and mirror. Neither chook turned out to be musical but they were both infatuated with the mirror.
Suddenly, the crowing stopped.
Then having not laid eggs for an eternity, Rosie started laying during the lockdown.
The hens put aside their differences and became friends again. Working from home since March, I've been able to see this first-hand daily from my office window.
When Ruby looked a bit wobbly last week and needed a hand to get back into the hen house from the garden below, we knew she was on her last legs.
Rosie sat with her in the nest box for almost that whole last day. Then when we buried her that night, Rosie sat on the grave. Birdbrain or not, chickens have feelings.
For the first time in her life Rosie was alone. Now during the day when she's not wandering the garden she camps on our back doormat, like a sheep dog, and roosts on the rail near our back door at night, from where she can see us watching TV.
A pet is for life not just for Christmas, folks. And chicken is now not for Christmas lunch, this year anyhow. Eat more turkey!
Merry Christmas readers!!
Travel safe everyone and mind your Ps and queues when you're crossing the border.