Before getting Kasper and Zoey, I could never have a pet dog. My mum is allergic to…every animal. When I was growing up I managed to get away with gerbils, rats, hamsters and mice in my bedroom. We had outdoor pets like guinea pigs and rabbits. We even got a corn snake and a Giant African Land snail!
But my main passion was chickens 🙂
We got our first trio of Black Sex Links when I was about thirteen, and they became my responsibility. I cleaned their nest of poop every morning before school, cleaned and refilled their food and waterer, and let them out to free range and collected eggs after school.
The first three hens we got as POL (point of lay) pullets. They were flighty and timid; Tilly was the bravest, Libby was also quite friendly, and Penny was a scaredy-hen!
After about a year Libby passed away from egg binding. It was then that Milly came into my life.
We’d driven to a nearby petting farm, and asked them if we could buy a chicken. They came out with a frozen one, I kid you not! Quite odd to offer an animal carcass to three vegetarians, haha! 😀
Eventually they understood that we wanted a live chicken, and so they took us to a huge shed full of young chickens. And so I picked out Milly. We were told she was around 16 weeks old…looking back I’d be surprised if she was 12 weeks old.
Right from the get go Milly was special. She would follow me everywhere, peeping. She couldn’t cluck like an adult chicken. She would stand on my shoes (an old battered pair of my dad’s trainers I wore in the back garden) and ride as I walked. She would sit on my shoulder (and, frequently, poo down my back…not that I could ever be annoyed at her). She loved hugs, and kisses and me helping to groom her. When I looked out the study window, on the second floor, she would see me looking and try to fly up to me.
One day, not long after Milly came to us, I came home from school and couldn’t find her in the garden. I panicked. Milly was my baby. I called and called and, eventually, I heard her peeping response. She had squeezed through the netting surrounding our garden, had hopped over the two foot wall and flown / fallen the five foot drop on the other side into a neighbour’s garden.
I couldn’t see her, but I could hear her. So I immediately began climbing down the wall. Once I was in their garden, Milly appeared through the bushes, a scuttling white blob, and flew straight into my arms. God, I loved that chicken 🙂
She grew into an amazing hen. She was a fantastic layer but, best of all, she loved me. And I absolutely adored her. When Milly was about a year old, we heard from some neighbour’s two doors down that Milly went to visit them most days after I had left for school…wait, what?!
They had assumed we knew about this. We didn’t! Milly crossed two gardens to get there (including a garden that often held a friendly Staffordshire Bull Terrier!), then stood outside their door until they let her in. She was always back in the garden in time for when I walked the hour-long walk back from school though!!
Once we learned this, I spent £350 of my savings on a large coop for them. When I got back from school I would let them out to free range for a few hours, and Milly would snuggle me.
During summer holidays I would spend full days with Milly. She would snuggle in my lap whilst I read or lay on my bum whilst I dozed. One of my best Milly memories is one summer day when she was snuggled on my lap. A neighbour’s cat came strolling over for a fuss. I stroked the cat and soothed Milly (she wasn’t a fan of cats). She was doing okay…until the twitching cat’s tail began slapping her in the face…I have *never* seen her so affronted!!
When she went broody, we bought fertilised eggs for her to sit on. She was a FANTASTIC mum! She would occasionally abandon her chicks in the middle of the garden to come for a cuddle with me, but wow she loved them. Her chicks were Buff Orps, and even when they were 10 weeks old and great hulking chicks, Milly would call them into the nest box with her to lay an egg! XD
On 26th February 2010, the day after me and my partner had celebrated our 6th month anniversary, Milly was put to sleep. What pains me the most, still, is that I didn’t get to say goodbye. I tear up at that thought every time.
You can read Milly’s farewell post here.
Since Milly died, I have only held chickens a handful of times. Which was why, when we went to visit a farm yesterday, I was over the moon when I saw they had chickens! They were perched on the fence as we walked past, and I managed a hug with not one, but THREE chickens 😀
It was pretty awesome. And even more awesome? They had chicks!
They were in a pen in a small bordered run, under a heat lamp. They were so, so sweet. I sat with them for an hour, it was great 😀
I love this next pic 🙂
We’ll definitely be going back to the farm again. I miss chicken cuddles, a lot.