By Nadia Ali. I have never looked after farm animals before. The closest animal I have looked after is a domesticated dog, a purr-fect cat and of course most people’s first pet – a childhood goldfish. So when my neighbours went on holiday and left me in charge of a coup of six chickens including a Mother Hen, I figured how hard could it be to throw chicken feed over the fence?
One thing my neighbours forgot to tell me was that Mother Hen officially known as a “Broody Hen” was sitting on eggs (known as a clutch) in a half-a-barrel outside the kitchen window. The all black plump mother hen never moved from the eggs and I was told she wouldn’t until they were hatched.
The other five chickens ran around to our side of the house whenever they heard our backdoor opened, assuming it was food time.
They clucked eagerly from across the fence. I would take a cup of chicken feed and throw it on the soakaway at the side of the next-door house and that was it until the evening feeding time.
However, as time went by, once my backdoor opened a stench from the chicken droppings would waft over. They never really came on our side of the house until now and were coming twice a day to eat. The once clean soakaway was now littered with chicken droppings. Suddenly, feeding the chickens gave way to a whole other chore. I now needed to wash down the side of the neighbour’s house to avoid the smell.
Mother Hen and her five chicks
As time progressed, one morning when I opened the backdoor, there was the sound of chirping chicks! I went over the fence to investigate – followed by the brood of chickens wondering where was their food.
There was Mother Hen and five chicks. She fluffed her feathers as if to attack and the chicks huddled underneath her body. They were not bright yellow ones like I had expected, but white and black ones – looking like baby penguins because of the distinct markings.
It was only then that I looked carefully at the chickens. They were all different breeds, and different colours. It sparked my interest. What breed were these white and black penguin-looking chicks? According to Mr Google, they were Mottled Cochin Bantam chicks and Mother Hen was a Black Cochin, apparently known for her big fluff of feathers – at least I think so!
Mother Hen got used to me arriving twice a day to specially feed her and the penguins – oops, I mean chicks! As cute as they were, I couldn’t help but wonder why someone would opt to keep them? Well, environmentally, they are the greenest pets around by encouraging sustainable living maintaining a healthy lawn by eatings bugs. They provide natural fertiliser and compost as chicken poo provides nitrogen and best of all they eat almost anything!
Here in sweet T&T, many Trinbagonians have grown up chasing the odd yard fowl around and it is not uncommon to see chickens running around people’s yards today. In fact, interest in raising backyard chickens has spiked in recent years in the USA and UK where it’s considered a trend! But, until my neighbours return, I am pet-sitting Mother Hen, her chicks and the rest of the brood. My cat Cici sits somewhat disgruntled on our side of the fence as I walk around with feed in hand saying, “Here chicky, chicky!”
August 2015 – Issue 17 www.sweettntmagazine.com
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