There was an old chicken named Gertie
Whose feet were incredibly dirty.
To increase her allure
She’d a fine pedicure
And now she’s fantastically flirty.
She wasn’t called Gertie as it happens. Her name was Scrat. Do you remember Scrat, the sabre-toothed squirrel from the Ice Age movies? He never has any luck, seems to always get himself into bother, and is obsessed with hoarding one single acorn.
We named our Scrat after Ice Age Scrat because she was an unlucky but likeable little chicken. When we first collected her, she could barely walk because her feet were completely encased in rock hard chicken poo. She had great big solid balls of the stuff on each of her toes. It took a lot of soaking her feet in warm water to finally get them clean, but then she could run around just as well as the others. Almost.
Scrat was accident prone. She had somehow lost the sight in one eye before we collected her, but we don’t think she’d cottoned on to this fact. She would get all excited and go hurtling around like a headless, well, like a headless chicken, only to crash headfirst into walls or trees or other chickens. If you threw food for her from the wrong side she couldn’t see it, and by the time she’d worked out that she needed to turn around, the other chickens had often scoffed the lot.
She was the very definition of bottom of the pecking order in our little flock, bullied by all the girls, especially Tikka, who was a gobby little madam. Even Kentucky the cockerel wasn’t as enamoured of her as he was the others.
But, after a little settling in period, she laid just as well as any of our ladies, she was soon in great condition, she was curious, she was silly and she loved people. The main reason we picked her up in the first place was because she ran straight to us, so she was easy to catch. (and the dirty feet helped.)
She was always first to greet you in the mornings. She was the one that sussed out where the back door was and would often wander into the kitchen. She was the one standing outside the kitchen window, just in case you felt the urge to throw out a few scraps, or under the bird table in case the wild birds dropped anything. She was the one that didn’t mind being picked up and stroked. She almost lost her head or a toe every time she dived in front of the spade because she’d seen a grub or a worm. She was the one that would come running up to you as soon as you stepped out of the house, head held to one side so she could see you from her good eye.
She was a clutz, she was a danger to herself, she was accident prone, and we never worked out if she was very brave or just very stupid. But her self-preservation skills seemed to be paying off, she trusted us and she was by far our favourite.
Our first five chickens came from a barn and had never stepped outside before. Next we rescued a couple of ex-battery hens, who were in a worse state. But watching them take their first steps on grass and grow in confidence and feathers was an absolute joy.
Times have changed and we don’t keep chickens anymore, we don’t have the lifestyle that would allow us to keep them right now.
But, if you do have the opportunity, the resources and the desire to keep chickens, I can absolutely recommend it. They are such characters with quite individual personalities, and they are a joy to have around. And the eggs are a delicious bonus!