Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Don't Let Your Chickens Become Your Pets

Formerly "Ginger" - My First "Pet"

"Don't let your chickens become your pets," my mother warned when I spoke with her on Christmas Day. It's not that my Mom has chickens. In fact, she has a vendetta of sorts against any kind of animal. (Brought on, I am sure, by a vicious dog bite she received as a child.) Yet, my mother enjoys any new kind of endeavor, especially ones that are out of the norm of daily living. So, when I told her I had chickens, she decided to start asking friends and family about raising chickens.

It was during a conversation with my brother-in-law's mother who has raised chickens in Oregon for years...years and years...more years than I can even imagine, that my mother received her first chicken raising warning. "Jaki said not to make pets of your chickens." 

My immediate reaction was, how could they not become pets? The raccoons that sidle up to the back screen door and peer in with their masked eyes are nearly pets. How could the chickens that I've raised since days old not become pets, especially, chickens like Ginger?

"Ginger" (pictured above), a Golden Spangled Hamburg, was the first of my "pets." Her ginger-colored feathers, tinged with dark cinnamon tones, were immediately attractive to me. Coming from a long-line of ginger-heads, I dubbed her Ginger in honor of my Great-Aunt, a Great Aunt that I never knew but whose name and stories had filtered down through the lineage. This little, feathered Ginger was not only a striking new member of my family but also the only one that let me reach deep into the chick box and pull her out from under the warmth of the heat lamp and pet her. She nested her head up against my chest and gently rested there while I stroked her.

It was about two months into her life, that I noticed that she was emitting sort of a choked noise. It was as if she was trying to dislodge a rather large cricket caught in her throat. Ever the one to question my observations, I decided I must not be hearing what I thought I was even though I swore there was a bit of a cockle-doodle-doing going on. 

Three months into the game, it is unquestionably evident that my little darling Ginger is a rooster--a medium-sized preening rooster with extravagant tail feathers and a fearless attitude that clearly says "male."

I would love to keep this rooster, but at this end of the Central Coast, the city has a strict noise ordinance against owning a rooster. Thirty hens I can keep on my property, but a rooster? No way.

As luck would have it, some more rural Santa Ynez Valley living resident was advertising for a young roo to mate with her hens. Carole came over yesterday to "check Ginger out" and will be picking up our rooster in a couple of days.

It's going to be hard to say goodbye to 'Ginger." He was, after all, the first "hen" I loved. But, as I coddled him up into my arms yesterday, and looked amber eye to amber eye with him,  I assured him he was getting the better of the deal. He soon would have six hens to strut his stuff around, more property upon which to scavenge, and, best of all, the dream for all men, he would soon be getting laid. 

Just like when he was young, he pressed his head up into my chest and gently rested there, as if to thank me.

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