Guy Peters looks back on the the life of Dr…
I first visited a local farm looking for a pair of pygmy goats to “enhance” my garden and keep as pets. I never got as far as their enclosure. Walking passed hundreds of free range chickens I was mesmerised and stopped to take a closer look.
That’s it, I decided, chickens are the way forward. From snow white to bright red, it soon became apparent there were many varieties each with their own way of doing things. I choose a Light Sussex (white with black feathering and neck collar) a Loman Brown (or escape artist as I now know her) and a Black Marans which is a hefty bird with a horrible screeching voice. So Buster, Snowy and Tora were taken from their enclosure and transported to my back garden.
My first thought was to allow them to free range in my garden, but my neighbour had other ideas and the novelty of the birds wandering across his lawn soon wore off. Although the girls liked to wander around neighbouring gardens for a brief spell, they always came back when called or by bedtime. It has to be remembered they do make a bit of a mess in an ornamental garden and are no respecters of neatly placed soil. Any raked pile of leaves is a challenge to any chicken; who can kick these around the fastest?
So I had to give thought to enclosing them HA! The Loman Brown seems to be the most inquisitive breed and will find a way of escaping the pen. Even though I had gone to some trouble making” chicken heaven” Tora aka Steve McQueen sees it as her duty to break out and do her thing elsewhere. Touch wood, I think I have cracked it now (pardon the pun) and she seems happy with the provision of her new ”state of the art“ dust bath. I won’t go into the knitted jackets that were hastily designed during that cold snap…..Crazy? Oh yes, all you sniggering experienced small holders and farmers have got to remember that us townies place human qualities on to our animals and have not yet reached the sensible level of care.
Bearing this in mind, when Snowy went hormonal on me this year and sat down for a week, I decided she needed to have a chance at being a mum and not put her in a sack and shake it as a farmer friend suggested, as if! The only hatching eggs I could get hold of were duck eggs so we got those not really expecting them to hatch. Snowy did her duty refusing to move for 4 weeks unless I lifted her off for some food and water and now we have 2 runner ducks and a Cayuga bobbing around the garden jumping in and out of my son’s paddling pool. Snowy has decided not to join her “babies” in the water, but keeps a maternal eye on them from the patio and enjoys some quality ‘me’ time where she can act like a chicken for a while.
So if you have ever considered keeping a few chickens as pets I can highly recommend it. They are fun to watch, curious and entertaining, easy and inexpensive to keep and oh yes they lay eggs too!