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December 23, 2010

Hens Bring Joy To California Family

Nine-year-old girl talks with us about her experience

  • Perry loves her adopted hen, Rose. Cheryl Otto

  • Pumpkin acts as a sentinel, peeking over the lavender bushes for signs of danger. Cheryl Otto

  • Peek-a-Boo the rooster adores being held. Cheryl Otto

It's hard to find a happier bunch of birds than Rose, Cocoa, Pumpkin, and Daisy. Last summer they were living in an abusive situation. Today, these plucky hens are the apple of nine-year-old Perry Marie Otto's eye.

They live in a custom-built chicken coop where they jump from perch to perch, burrow in their soft bedding, and wait daily for Perry to come home from school.

When the Ottos heard about the rescued hens from their friend at Black Hen Farm, they didn't hesitate to open their hearts and their home. Cheryl Otto, Perry's mom, even spoke in church about the experience of adopting these hens.

Perry talked to us about the joy her new friends bring her.

When your family decided to adopt the hens, did you make any special preparations?

Yes. We bought a coop and built a secure, covered run. We went to free, pet-poultry group meetings to learn how to care for them, what to feed them and how much, what type of housing they needed, and how to treat and prevent sickness.

Has religion made it easier for you to extend your compassion to all creatures?

Yes. God is everything and in everything, including all creatures. We brought our rooster to the "blessing of the animals" at our church in November.

Do your hens lay eggs?

We give their eggs away and receive donations toward their organic feed. One hen, Miss Rose, sits on all the eggs. Sometimes, she scoops them with her beak and moves them across the coop into her nest box.

Did you find it a challenge to get the unsocialized hens to warm up to you?

They are all friendlier now than they were at first. They became calmer when we got our rooster. When I try to catch them, they still run away, but when I'm holding them, they seem to say "aaaaah."

How would you compare having a pet chicken to having a more traditional pet, like a dog or cat?

Chickens are more interesting, and I like to play with them. They are better-sized for little people than big dogs.

Can you describe the different personalities of each bird?

Daisy likes oregano and black oil sunflower seeds. When we first got our birds, two of them were picking on Daisy, but now she is the head of the roost. She likes to fly.

Cocoa is the strongest flyer and taught Daisy how to fly. Daisy and Cocoa are like a team. Cocoa has two different-colored eyes—one is green, and one is yellow.

Pumpkin also likes oregano. She's still learning to fly. She doesn't like that Daisy and Cocoa can fly higher than she can. Before we got Peek-a-Boo the rooster, Pumpkin used to warn all the other birds if there was another animal who might hurt them.

When we first got Rose, she was broody and wanted to have babies. But when we got the rooster, she seemed to say, "No thanks; I was just kidding!"

We adopted Peek-a-Boo a few months after we rescued the hens. He's a big, black, fluffy feather duster. He's very friendly. I can just walk up to him and pick him up. He makes a funny noise when I put him down.

Do you think Rose and the others have a sense that they were rescued?

Yes. They love me.

Do you have any other thoughts to share about chickens?

Sometimes they dance with each other. They are clever and love sneaking out through the gate. They like sunbathing and taking dust baths.

Daisy begs with really cute, big eyes. They love having people around them. And they love to eat—especially grapes and watermelon.

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