2017 - Volume #41, Issue #4, Page #21[ Sample Stories From This Issue | List of All Stories In This Issue | Print this story | Read this issue]
Woman Trains Chickens To Be Pets
Nearly two decades ago, when one of those hatchlings emerged with a crooked beak, Joyce began feeding it with a syringe. “Chickens eat all the time, so when she was little I had to care for her constantly. Right away, she became a household pet.”
Since the couple already had a trip planned, there was no choice but to take the deformed chick along. “I kept a stack of paper towels on my lap,” Joyce explained. “After she used the top one, I simply removed it to keep things fresh.”
Whenever they stopped, Joyce placed the chick on the hood of the car for feedings, and it often drew crowds. “Kids who had never seen a chicken up close before wanted to hold it.” In no time at all, the tiny hen became completely at ease with all humans.
Unfortunately, “That chicken had genetic problems, and died young from a stroke,” Rex added. Yet even at the vet’s office, “before passing, it managed to lift a wing since chickens like to be scratched there.”
The Stuckers were hooked, so much so that Joyce soon hand-picked another to train as a pet.
The key, Joyce believes, is to isolate the bird from other chickens. “It has to depend on you exclusively for food, water, and companionship.” She starts out with hand-feeding, so the chick will associate human skin with something pleasant.
Once the process has been started, however, it cannot be returned to the coop. “Having a pet chicken is a commitment,” Joyce warned. “If you put it back with the flock, they’ll go for the kill.”
Not that any chicken would choose to leave the comfort of the Stucker home. Joyce beds her feathered pets down in a towel-covered pan on a nightstand, complete with a water bowl. At feeding time, they sit on a towel on the kitchen counter and eat fresh vegetables.
One of their pet chickens (they’ve had 5 so far) was actually potty-trained. “Whenever he fidgeted in the car, we pulled over, and I set him out to do his thing. In less than 20 seconds we’d be back on the road.”
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