Ginger: April 2008 - May 2010
Our favorite chicken died. We love all our chickens, but she was special, for one, she was MY chicken and she was too young to go. Her name was Ginger, a Rhode Island Red, and she was one of the first chickens we got, just over two years ago, but she became part of the family very quickly, just as much as any pet ever could.
It happened Sunday. She seemed a bit off the previous day and we were worried, since she has always been the one to greet us first in the morning and be right by our sides whenever we are busy outside working. As a matter of fact, as I was digging the hole to bury her, my wife and I thought about how she would have been right there beside me as I dug, watching, picking up worms and just being Ginger. The curious, friendly, funny, and loving chicken.
Anyone who has ever had a dog or a cat knows how close they can become, one of the family, a companion. Before we got our chickens if anyone had ever said chickens were the same way I would have called them crazy, and i would have been wrong – very, very, wrong.
From the moment we brought them home from the Mount Forest animal show, they all found a place in our hearts. That day when we bought our first chickens, we really had no idea what we were getting, since they all look so cute and fuzzy at that age. We kept them in the house as they grew since they were too little to be outside in the cold, and I think that is what helped them bond so well to us all, including our dogs.
Ginger, orange fluffy one on right
Ginger on right, with Pumpkin, Zena & Jet
They grew quickly and after 4 weeks or so they were big enough to be outside in the newly converted shed turned chicken coop. It wasn’t being used for anything except storing a couple of bikes, so it was insulated, lined with plywood and a operable window put in, as well as a small door on the front for the chickens to go in and out of. We had originally bought 6 chicks, two little day-olds at 50 cents each, a slightly older fancy one for a whopping $5, and then the 3 chicks that became our favorites at $5 for the trio. Sadly the day-olds didn’t survive, and neither did our little fancy chick – she just always seemed frail and slow to grow. The trio thrived and survived though, waking us in the morning as soon as the sun came through the window, their little peeps and squeaks awakening the dogs, and in turn the whole house. Cute little feathered alarm clocks. When the day came to put them outside in their own house, they were probably confused by the sudden freedom and were slow at first to venture too far from the safety of their new home, unless of course we or the dogs were outside.
the trio's first day outside
We were worried at first, but it quickly became apparent that they liked to remain on our property and not venture too far from home. They would wander the extent of the property which was unfenced and open to the road in front with farmer’s fields on the other 3 sides. Chickens are brighter than most people think. They wander close to the property line at the front of the house, but never onto the gravel shoulder of the road, much to the surprise of passersby and it seems that any new chickens we get follow along in the trio’s example.
As I hinted, 3 chickens led to more, we had the room in the coop and once you have a few, adding a few more is really no more work day to day. Each chicken we have is a different breed and an entirely different personality as well. Ginger was the bravest and most curious one, which probably led to her disappearance in the big storm in early 2009. The weather was nice, a lot of the snow had melted so the “chicken” door on the coop was opened and we let them out to get some sun. Coming home later was when we found the feathers & blood and Ginger was missing. We were devastated. Thinking she had been attacked and carried away by an owl or hawk (they are often seen circling our property) we thought she was dead. That night we had a huge snow storm, approx 12″ of snow and the temperature dropped to well below freezing.
A week later I looked out the kitchen window and noticed a small chicken standing in front of the coop door. It was Ginger, minus most of the tail feathers, one of her claws, her comb looking like it had suffered from frostbite and sporting talon marks across her back that were already starting to heal. Whatever had attacked her obviously couldn’t carry her off and she must have found some place to hide and heal. From that day on, she was our miracle chicken, having survived in the sub-zero weather for a weak while badly injured. Amazing. She healed up and the feathers grew back in, getting back to her full size, and eventually her comb grew back in again to, although she was always missing one claw.
As i mentioned, she was always there in the morning, her happy cackle as she and the other chickens bolt out of the coop door in search of food. Tapping at the front door with their beaks when they think its time for a treat (grapes, spinach and bread are their favorites) or hopping up on the arm of your chair when you sit outside having a meal.
helping me dig
is it edible?
Chickens, when you keep them for laying eggs like we do, are pets. The recent decision (or lack of) by the City of London not to allow people to have chickens in the city is near-sighted and uninformed in my opinion. Sure, you have to look after them and clean up after them, but how is that any different from a dog or a cat. With proper maintenance of their living environment, they take little work and give us back so much joy, and eggs too which is more than you can say for a dog or cat. Many cities in the U.S. allow chickens, and to paraphrase a friend and fellow chicken-lover on twitter “it’s shorter to list the cities that don’t allow them yet than those that do”. A simple rule limiting the number allowed per household to say 4 or 5 chickens and not allowing roosters would be a start in the right direction. Plenty of other municipalities and cities allow them, why does London always have to be the last to adopt an idea? But enough about that, that’s a rant for another day.
some of our flock
watching the sunset
the trio w/ Nash
For us, having chickens is a joy, partly because we had the fortune of having a very special one named Ginger in our lives. She is laid to rest beside other departed loved family pets and will be sorely missed. The poem about the Rainbow Bridge always comes to mind when a pet is lost (posted previously here), and when we finally shuffle off this mortal coil, Ginger along with all of the other pets that we have had the pleasure of knowing even for a short time will be waiting. In my case, I better make sure I bring raisin bread as I cross the bridge.