My wondeful sister, Karen – World Animal Day – The glorification of the chicken

August 2012 040 Dec twenty twelve 030 IMG_7142

This post is a slightly different format to the others, but that is the right of big sisters, to do as they please! I am Candy, and I run chicken rescue and rehabilitation South Africa. Karen is my sister. I have learned so much from Karen over the years, and she has been an invaluable source of rehab and nursing knowledge for me. Karen always shares so generously with me, and I am so grateful for that. I am so touched by this post submitted by Karen. Its uber cool to have ones sister submit posts!

I’m Karen, a  ‘compassionate conservationist ‘ and have worked in wildlife rescue and rehabilitation for over quarter of a century ( ouch ! ); currently far too involved in the sad and sordid world of rhino poaching and elephant taming ( on the anti –side of it that is ) and totally believe my favourite quote. ‘Life is what happens when I have other things planned ‘

I am not a chicken owner but rather ‘chicken-owned’ by proxy or by virtue of having a sister, Candy, who is deeply involved in the rescue and rehabilitation of chickens. Anyone involved in or with someone in rescue  – wild or domestic will know that the rescues and the person are inseparable…and with Candy, it’s a case of  ‘ take me, take my chickens.‘

Not that I’m complaining because this familial relationship has exposed me to the world of chickens and the privilege of some wonderful, funny, touching, humbling and sad insights.

Having seen so many chickens pass through Candy’s care, it took some thought as to what to which one to focus on. I guess one that stands out in my mind:

Driving back from visiting our eccentric dad, Candy suddenly declared  ‘Sick chicken‘, pulled over, came to a grinding halt and before I could say ‘feathers’ had disappeared into a seething black mass of people and dust. Just as I was getting to the point of calling for back up or a search party (and realizing that eccentricity could be hereditary) Candy reappeared and pushed into my arms a pathetic, battered, bruised, weak, overheated, underfed almost featherless and what I thought, with horror, a nearly dead chicken. The poor thing was too weak to protest or care and simply gave up and settled against me. I could feel her little heart beating weakly, her breath shallow and labored. I felt a huge lump in my throat looking at her little abused body. I didn’t think she’d make the 20 minute drive home and for that time my mind tumbled over the horrors that she’d been through in her short life……here in my arms was barely living proof of the appalling reality of the chicken industry that Candy had told me about.

She was named Claire, ‘Chicken Claire’ so as not to confuse her with Jason’s Claire, my son’s fiancé after whom she was named. ( I don’t think that  human Claire had been in our family long enough to know what at an honour in the Candy chicken world it is to have a chicken named after you – but human Claire took it well and sent appropriately supportive messages (she’s going to fit right in to this funny family ! )

I never imagined that  ‘Chicken Claire’ would survive, let alone thrive (testament to chicken and rescuer !  ) and earlier today, a month or two post rescue  – she is a beautiful, proud and recovered chicken who rushes across the garden, sorting out the new pup, runs across to greet me on arrival, check out my intentions and ensure that I know my place in the flock.

There have been so many wonderful and humbling experiences and interactions with Candy’s chickens but what I have learnt about chickens is this  – the poultry industry is brutal, chickens are tough and far more intelligent than one would ever imagine with personalities that range from the chicken CEO headmistress type to the sweet, gentle shy ladylike type, and a whole range in between. They know their names and respond when called and recognize different people.

I have also learnt a few valuable life’s lessons from chickens that we all might to well to follow:

* Forgive, forget and get on with life. ( they have an incredible capacity to forgive what humans have done to them, forget the ghastly past and get on with life as it is right now )

*Life is tough and short so take affection when offered, give when asked and enjoy every pleasure life has to offer ( haven’t got quite as enthusiastic about sand bathing as Candy’s chickens do but I get the message and principle.)

* Pedicures are an important part of life ( I guess if I had to live life on a wire bottom cage , pedicures would mean much more to me )

* Accept that sometimes you are the pecker and sometimes the pecked, but better to be pecked than not be part of the social pecking order at all  (Good social advice for getting on in the flock )

* Try to get to the front of the egg laying line or learn to cross one’s legs….and when you lay an egg , left everybody know about it  ( if I ever get clever enough to lay something as perfect and complete as an egg, I will certainly crow about it )

* If life gives you lemons, give them the one eyed chicken stare and move on ( I ‘m still trying to perfect this but it seems chickens do it better )

And for those conservation-minded individuals amongst you, this is what I learned during a deeply philosophical discussion with the flock earlier today – they are all in support of saving rhino but think we should ditch the daschunds……and next time someone calls you ‘bird brain’ or ‘chicken’ – take it as a compliment

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