Think Feel ACT…"Write your own story"

So long Penny and Jenny

Last night we relocated the family chickens to a loving new home. It is the first of a series of letting go that make our own imminent relocation seem all too real.

I’m still somewhat surprised that we owned chickens as pets, and even more surprised that I have become somewhat fond of them.

The campaign for pets began about 3 years ago after we adopted the science lab mouse “Newton” for the  school holidays. He was kinda cute (although stank rather nastily).

I am not an animal person, or a pet person at all. Aside from a budgie, a disastrous encounter with guinea pigs as a kid, and a small goldfish fad, I’ve never had pets. And never wanted any. So being in a position of power in the family (specifically the power of veto), I’d managed to come this far without giving in to demands for pets – but this was battle I just couldn’t win.

And so the pet negotiations began.

If it came down to it, I’d tolerate a cat, they more or less keep to themselves. Nobody else wanted a cat. The comment “introduced species” floated around.

Somebody else wanted a dog. My response: “absolutely not”. I can’t bear the way dogs jump on you, I dislike the smell of dog and really dislike dog hair on the furniture.

Mice, rabbits and guinea pigs were discounted on account of the smell.

Budgies were discounted on account of the mess. Nobody wanted fish.

So that left us in a bit of a pickle – there wasn’t much left. All the standard pets had been vetoed. Thankfully nobody had mentioned snakes, axolotls or other unusual creatures.

It was over lunch one day at work that a colleague suggested we try chickens. You must be joking right? She gently and enthusiastically convinced me to at least suggest this to the family. And it went down pretty well.

Shortly after that we went on a farm holiday where the kids got to feed the chickens every day – and collect the eggs each morning. And they loved it. So we got our own – Penny and Jenny. And we became pet-owners.

Chickens would have to be the dumbest yet sweetest natured pets. They don’t realise to get out of the rain – they don’t realise that shelter is a just a few steps away. They just stand there looking puzzled wondering why they are wet.


They let pigeons half their size steal their food. And when we bought one of those plastic vultures to scare the pigeons – the chickens went hysterical, while the pigeons continued to steal their food unfazed.

My son built a seesaw for them – and they stood still bobbing up and down. I wondered what they were thinking. Then again maybe they weren’t thinking.

And if you stroke their necks just so, you can hypnotise them and get them to lie flat on their backs. (I did not do this myself – I just watched). And they are just so patient with getting their nails painted and other harrassments like that.

We by and large got an egg each from them every day – and we are cooking the last of those as I write. I promise fresh eggs have so much more taste than the store bought variety.


And chickens love eating cockroaches, anything that moves really. Since having the chickens, cockroaches have become much less of a problem. But in seeking things that move, they totally destroy any plant life within pecking or scratching range.

We never had a particularly lush garden, but we did have some greenery. That has been pretty much decimated over the past few years – and so now we are spending what we saved on supermarket eggs on landscaping (and more).

find a friend

But as much as the chickens have become part of the family, we can’t transport them interstate. We can’t keep them in a rental property – letting them decimate somebody else’s garden. So we had to say good bye.

Last night in the pouring rain, we bundled them into borrowed cat cages and drove them to a lovely home where they’ll have four other chicken sisters. They’ll be alright. I’m sure they’ve already forgotten the seesaw, getting their nails painted and the hypnotising. I’m sure they’re out there searching and scratching, worried only where the next worm is coming from.

And as for us, we’ll miss their morning squawking and messy scratchy ways. One day perhaps we’ll have chickens again. Who knows.

But in the mean time it’s so long Penny and Jenny. We’ll miss ya!!


  1. Rob Burnside

    There’s something about chickens, Dr. J. When you have time, research the strange and compelling story of Nancy Luce, Martha’s Vinyard, MA, USA. She was a reclusive, 19th century chicken fancier you might be interested in reading about. I’m sure yours will do well in their new home. You too!

    • Thanks Rob

      • Rob Burnside

        You’re very welcome! Among other things, she wrote a book of chicken poetry. A few lines follow: “God lent me my beloved friends/Only to remain with me a few years/And took them home again.” from Poor Little Hearts (1860). Aside from her subject matter, the unusual thing is that she wrote in free verse, at a time when the only other poet who had done so was Walt Whitman. For all chicken and poetry fans out there, this hard-to-find book may be ordered from the Martha’s Vinyard Museum, Edgartown, MA. Quite a story!

  2. Jocelyn, that story was truly poignant.
    I can use the sad end to the tale (*sniff*) as an excuse never to keep chickens. I’d fall in love, only to have my hopes dashed in the end. Dashed like an egg after a great fall off a wall.
    …But I might now look into chicken poetry instead, thanks to Nancy Luce via Rob. Poetry doesn’t ruin your garden, and you can take it with you when you move.

    • Chicken poetry is clearly your forte….

      • Rob Burnside

        Jocelyn (see what you’ve begun) For Dr. Coleman and the rest of your flock, the correct title is:”Consider Poor I” The Life and Work of Nancy Luce by Walter Magnus Teller (1984) reprinted by the Martha’s Vinyard Museum, PO Box 1310, Edgartown, MA 02539 It’s bound to getcha clucking!

      • Why thank you Rob. This conversation has been immensely amusing and I thank you all greatly

  3. Rob Burnside

    You’re welcome, Dr. J. Just realized, however, I’ve been spelling poorly. There’s an “e” in the middle of “Vineyard.” Sorry ’bout that!

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