My Classy Birds (or Thieving Magpies)

October 08, 2014

By Rose

We've been keeping chooks and ducks for a few years now and our little brood has made itself quite at home in our patch. In fact, I'd wager they're one of the most spoilt flocks around. It's a free range haven on our acreage with veggie scraps galore and my goodness...the Taj Mahal of hen pens. But quite unlike my good eco self, the chooks seem to have developed quite expensive tastes - an eye for the finer things in life - especially my favourite wyandotte Scarface and my rooster, Reg, who it turns out, have a penchant for my diamonds. That's right…my shiny, glittery, expensive diamond jewels. Let me explain...

   

We started our flock with a few stunning silver and red laced wyandotte hens and a couple of grumpy roosters. If you're not familiar with the breed, wyandottes are adorable backyard chooks. They hale from the US but have a very Australian temperament  - easy going and hardy. They've been superb egg layers for us but I think their best feature has to be their feathery attire - a burst of silvery white and black. or red and black, showy feathers.  

Our first clutch of teeny tiny wyandotte chicks came complete with black and white fluffy racing stripes. They particularly loved to climb on my lap and even hop onto my shoulders or head. All great fun until they poo on you! 

Now, years later, those cute lil' chicks have matured into a fine group of ladies who love nothing more than following me around the garden and hanging out with us in the veggie patch. My absolute favourite hen and matriarch of the pecking order is Scarface. Scarface earned her nickname when she was only a few days old. The runt of the clutch the other chicks didn't take too kindly to her late arrival and gave her a good pecking. I found her outside the pen with a large cut to her head so I raised her myself and she developed into a mighty fine chook with a big scar on the right side of her head (hence Scarface!)

Just like when they were young, the brood often come to visit me at the kitchen door for a treat or sit with me for a dust bath while I'm chilling in the garden or grafting in the patch. And just like when they were young, they occasionally try their luck with a jump on my lap or shoulder too. The girls are pretty hefty birds these days so I don't generally tolerate the feathery cuddles now but I'm a sucker for my ladies and one day last summer, I let Scarface jump up onto my shoulder.

I was about to shoo her off when she took a peck at my ear and to my great amazement, my newly bestowed diamond earring came flying out of my right ear. The glittering temptation of my only pair of jewels, a recent gift from someone special, was obviously just too much for this thieving magpie. Then before I could retrieve my earring from the ground, Reg, the ever greedy rooster, dived in and literally devoured the diamond before my eyes. I couldn't believe it and needless to say I was in shock for a while not knowing whether to laugh or cry. Seriously, did my rooster just eat my diamond?

Now I've never been a huge fan of jewels and I'm also a complete klutz - I always lose things! But even for me, this was a pretty novel way to lose a diamond earring. Once the shock subsided, then came the panic, how do I get my diamond back without giving Reg the chop? 

So poor Reg was put into solitary (plush solitary mind you) and poor me - I was on poo scavenging duty! Everyday for a few weeks I scoured Reg's dry droppings for that darn earring…to no avail. Eventually I gave up and Reg came out of solitary. I forgave Scarface too, after all, it was her exploratory pecking that got us in trouble. I'm yet to recover the earring. The person who gifted them to me never recovered either (must have been a hit to the bank balance)! It could possibly still be swilling around in Reg's crop or maybe I missed it during the poo scavenge. In any case, Reg could just be the most expensive chook in the neighbourhood.

Dedicated to Fen (and the cats)

If you'd like to keep your own chickens but are not sure where to start, there's a huge range of resources available to help you get started. Check out our Free Range Chicken Gardens in The Shop for tips on creating a beautiful chicken friendly backyard, follow your favourite garden guru or visit the ABC Organic Gardener poultry and livestock blog page for handy tips to get started. Have fun!



1 Response

Marg Agnew
Marg Agnew

October 09, 2014

I love my chooks too, I talk to them and let them roam free and they enjoy a top end diet but they are not as colourful as your feathery friends, but somehow I will look at them in a new light. Your story is just unbelievable and really sad. I am still trying to get my head around the events that lead to your loss of your precious diamonds, and am hoping one day when the time comes to go to chicken heaven you can somehow do an autopsy and find your shiny! glory. I look forward to a follow up, Marg

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