Hi my name is Vanessa.
As I kid I grew up in a home filled with love….and animals. We had everything from ducks, to geese, to turkeys and chickens. Of the flock of four hens, my favourite was a little lady named Herby, who my uncle gave me when she was just a day old. Some of my favourite childhood memories have Herby in them. I remember the day Herby died as if it were yesterday, even though it was well over 30 years back. She was about five or six years old and one morning didn’t rush out to greet me like she usually did. I found her sitting inside her hock. I picked her up and snuggled into her and realised when she looked at me that she wasn’t well. I recall the ache in my heart as we said goodbye to each other. I never had chickens for many years after that. Recently, I accompanied a member of Chicken Rescue & Rehabilitation South Africa (Janine Nash) to a battery cull farm, and decided to take four hens home with me. While all my hens are special, as if almost immediately one hen stood out over the others. Despite everything she had endured at the hands of greedy humans who saw her life as nothing more than a chance at lining their own pockets, she was friendly and sweet. We spend lots of time together. She sits on my lap and listens to my marriage woes! She’s always there when I need a break from my cheeky tween! We share a very special relationship. Her name…Willow.
Where in the world are you?
Beverley Gardens, Randburg, Gauteng, South Africa
How many chickens do you have?
Willow, Candy, Furby, Lacy
How do you spend quality time with your chicken/ chickens?
I spend about an hour or two a day sitting with them. I find them a wonderful relief from the pressures of being a mom to two small kids and a wife to a sometimes demanding (but at the same time wonderful) hubby. My chickens bring me a ‘sense of calm’!!;)
What has surprised you most about your chicken/ chickens?
I thought they would be far more aggressive considering what they’d been through having spent all of their lives in battery cages. They have a sweet nature and follow me everywhere. They’re also hungry…all the time!
What do you want to tell people out there (who don’t know chickens as a species) about chickens?
They make great pets. They can snuggle as good as any bunny, follow you as good as any dog, and lay on your lap and ‘pur’ as good as any cat.
How do you know that your chickens recognize you over and above other people in their lives?
They always rush to meet me. At the same time – morning and late afternoon – they start ‘calling’ for mom. Their clucks get higher and more excitable as I open the gate to the area of garden they live in.
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?
Love, above everything, I think is the most important thing any ‘being’ needs. As Mother Theresa once said: “I have come to realise that the greatest disease and the greatest suffering is to be unwanted, unloved, uncared for, to be shunned by everybody, to be just nobody to no one.” With love, I think comes the other non-negotiable factors. A place to live – not just a place to stay. In other words, a place where you can be what mother nature intended you to be. A place you can spread your wings. A place you can rest your head. A proper home, in every sense of the word. And a permanent one. A good and varied diet, shelter from the sun and rain, interaction with your own species, and a sense of security and safety are all important. Chickens love digging so a piece of lawn where they can play is ideal. Also, they like to ‘nest’ – so a private place where they can lay their eggs is a must.
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?
They say sometimes you can find love in the strangest of places. The same can be true when it comes to who you love. A chicken might not be seen as a ‘common pet’ but given the chance they make wonderful and loving companions.