Hello, my name is Fiona
From a young child right up to today, I have an insatiable love and kinship with animals. I got my first pet at the age of 7 and as they say the rest is history! I share my life with 14 dogs, 4 horses, 2 ducks,1 guinea pig (left at my gate in a box) and my little flock of chickens.
I am in the process of changing careers- so watch this space! I have a strong entrepreneurial drive that is intertwined with animal welfare and assist charities to raise funds through my company, Sentient Beings’ SMS lines.
I am just an average person like everybody else but has been blessed with an adoration for animals and am lucky enough to spend my life with them. I am passionate about educating the public about the Sentient Beings we share this earth with.
Where in the world are you?
I stay in Kyalami, Johannesburg, South Africa
What’s your favourite quote?
Gosh I have a few,
‘If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.”- The Dalai Lama.
“Love is not love Which alters when it alteration finds, Or bends with the remover to remove. O no, it is an ever-fixed mark That looks on tempests and is never shaken; It is the star to every wand’ring bark, Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken”- William Shakespeare, Sonnet 116
‘there are two ways of spreading light : to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it’ – Edith Wharton
How many chickens do you have?
I have a small flock consisting of 8 roosters, 25 hens and a little baby boschvelder.
I will just name a few- Florence, Merryweather, Flora, Fauna, Sugar,Spice, Jacquimo, Lucy, Sally, Liberty, Chikita, Jade, Admiral.
How do you spend quality time with your chickens?
I cook rice for them and give them it for their morning treat, I have a good chat with them and cuddle those that still enjoy it. In the afternoons /early evening, I usually read something to them- a short passage or story, if I don’t get the time to read I sit with them and just watch them, they are absolutely fascinating and so inquisitive.
What has surprised you most about your chickens?
When I first got chickens from Candy (chickens as pets not food – chicken rescue and rehabilitation South Africa) about 6-7 years ago, I was intrigued by the unity of my 3 girls at the time, how they communicated to each other and did things together. They were 3 ex battery hens that had suffered so much in their short little lives and yet here they were finding absolute joy in a dust bath and strutting around like life is great! There is great pleasure in simplicity. They are incredibly resilient and make the best of everything that it is presented to them. For that, chickens will always hold my deepest respect and admiration.
I learnt a lot from my first rooster, Mr Jacquimo, at the time I said no roosters- ever! And then Candy offered me Jacquimo to which I couldn’t refuse. He is the most incredible, beautiful being. He loves his hens, he watches them eat and forage in the paddock, he coo’s and clucks to them and fetches them when its getting dark to take them inside their room. He is gentle and every new hen I have ever got goes straight to Jacquimo although his heart belongs to Jade and he never leaves her side. He is steadfast in his love for them and shows them that everyday- people could really learn from him. He also is incredible with the other roosters, he doesn’t look for them or get in scraps with them , he lives his best life and chooses to enjoy himself and keeps those he loves close to him. Again, what an incredible world it would be if people behaved like him.
What do you want to tell people out there (who don’t know chickens as a species) about chickens?
Chickens are amazing beings. If you want to experience life with a sense of wonderment and enthusiasm you only need to watch a free ranging chicken to see how its done. If you want to learn about looking after and supporting your community, watch a family of chickens share their lives. Chickens have an appreciation for life like I have never seen before.
Chickens can teach us about enjoying the simple things in life- we don’t need all the gadgets & complexity we infuse in our lives. Every day they are bursting to experience this thing called life and all the glory it holds. No matter their past they make the best of every day. I want people to know that this little feathered being is as sensitive, complex, intelligent as you and I and shares the same will to live and be loved. I wish chickens could be taken to old age homes, children’s homes and to the terminally ill, as I believe chickens are beacons of hope and vessels of optimism, and I believe if we took the time to see them for who they really are, our lives would be enriched beyond measure. Despite being the most abused animal on earth (my belief) they don’t give up and don’t give in, they fight to live and we should do everything in our power to support their will to live and be free beings just as we are.
How do you know that your chickens recognize you over and above other people in their lives?
They just have to catch a glimpse of me and there is a marathon to get to me ( usually I have something yummy for them!), they know my voice because I am forever talking to them. Florence, the little baby, asks to be picked up when she sees me and Jacquimo clucks around me as If I am one of his hens! What I notice is that they “talk” back to me, they are very animated in their expressions and often peck at my toes! Even if they see me in the garden they will come to the fence if I ask them “where’s your mommy?”
In your experience of keeping chickens as pets, what 10 non-negotiable factors do you believe need to be in place to give chickens a life that is physically, emotionally and mentally healthy?
- Freedom- from abuse,pain, hunger, thirst and of course physical freedom to be free ranging.
- Shelter and security. They need to know their safe place, that it is theirs and catered to them, they need to be able to choose sun, shade etc. They need shelter from the elements and warm dry bedding. Their living quarters must be accessible to them at all times. They need to be kept safe from other pets who may harm them.
- Species appropriate food, fresh water and treats ( just like us)
- They need company, they are not solitary beings
- Stimulation. Chickens enjoy being stimulated and having things to do- scratch in the sand, dust baths, forage for insects. Giving them different experiences that are safe for them, like Florence who is learning to climb on perches with my “help” (Although she doesn’t need my input). Playing soft classical music or even talk radio is great. I give them shavings, dried grass and shredded paper – they love to pull it apart and roll in it. I sprinkle food in the paddock that they have to find. They also have a manure/compost heap that they enjoy.
- They need & enjoy interaction, with people and different species. My chickens have a wonderful relationship with my guinea pig and ducks, they watch each other and enjoy seeing what everyone gets up to. They enjoy human companionship and interacting with us. They must be allowed to choose to interact with us.
- Chickens need be seen by the public as beings and not a meal. Their plight for freedom and respect ,and the right to life needs to be heard by the world.
- Chickens need to be able to express themselves and be chickens. They need to have a certain amount of control over their own lives, they have sensitivities and preferences like we all do. They need to be allowed to enjoy themselves and create friendships and families.
- Chickens feel pain just like we do and they need medical care when they are ill or if in kindness they need to be allowed to cross rainbow bridge with dignity and love in their final moments.
- Chickens need US to learn from them about their joie de vivre and the indomitable spirit they carry. What we learn from them can only enrich our own lives and in turn this will create a better world for all.
If you could say one thing, on behalf of chickens in the world, to the decision makers in your country, what would that one thing be?
Change the Animal “Protection” Act, improve legislation & regulation and monitoring of how chickens and other farm/production animals are treated in the industry. The reason I say this is because it would be ideal if chickens/any animals were no longer used by humans in anyway but in the interim while they are we need to ensure they are treated with respect and dignity. We do not live in a perfect world and we need to do our best for them now, today, practically, at grass roots level, that will make a difference to their lives. I believe that there should be compulsory education at schools about the welfare & treatment of animals. Give people the knowledge and the opportunity to do better and learn about chickens ( and all animals) for who they are and not what material value they hold whether it be food or monetary. I want the world to embrace chickens and animals as equals with the same rights and desires to experience life as they choose to. I want people to learn from them and have the grace,humility and empathy to listen and learn from these most magnificent animals.
Thank you for this opportunity Candy. You are most definitely a candle that reflects light onto us all!