5 things I learned from the chickens outside my tent in Samoa –
1. Stay close to Mum, she will always keep a lookout for trouble while you are busy eating!
2. If Mum chirps … Beware … you better respond quickly, or you might not live to tell the tale.
3. Follow Mum’s advice and actions – she gets up on the high rock for a reason.
4. Don’t fight with your brothers and sisters, it only distracts you from more important issues, like eating.
5. There is always one chicken who is adventurous and wants to do his (generally always the male chick) own thing, and not follow Mum.
Now, I don’t just have two cuddly yellow chicks visit me each morning – like the picture. They are far too quick for me to actually capture them on photo! In fact, I have about five families/generations of chicks to wake me every morning at 6am (7am this morning thanks to Daylight Saving over the weekend!)
This all started about three months ago, when I noticed a mother hen and her four baby chicks arrive and start pecking around our bananas for insects and other tasty morsels! I thought at first they were from the neighbours (the ones whose dog bit me – much more placid these animals, my thinking!!!)
I had fed the chooks for my parents when I was younger, living in a country block of land in the Bay of Plenty, but we never had chickens, that I can remember! So, I was enthralled at these chickens, and how Mother Hen taught them to forage for food, scratching up the ground for them until they got the hang of the ungamely waddle themselves!
This continued … I chased them away from my tomato plants a few mornings, but I watched them grow and become more independent from Mum. Then one morning, the chicks arrived, now quite big in their own right, three roosters and a hen. I wondered what happened to Mum, but decided they must have been making it on their own in the world by now. I heard later that the neighbour’s had been attacked by dogs and he had his shotgun out chasing them away from his property. “Funny, he wasn’t so quick with the shotgun on his own dog when it attacked me”, I pondered!
Anyway, it turned out the chickens must have told their buddies we had no dogs on our property, so they started visiting en masse. Next, a new brown hen with five baby chicks, in all shades of cream and brown; then a jet black hen with about 11 chicks of varying shades from black to grey and some with white tufts is unusual places! Roosters would come over from time to time, and crow some sort of strangled attempt to crow, at all hours. (I wondered if their throats were dry in the tropics and they could get it out freely!!!)
One fine morning we were awakened by an unruly clamour and saw an older rooster chick half-flying, half-running past our kitchen with a dog very close at his heels. What went on behind the tree I will try not to imagine, but as we all ran and yelled “Halu” to the dog, it fled back to where it came from, but all was still and quiet behind the tree. It was sad to see his brothers and sister head off down to see what happened a while later, when the all clear had presumably been given.
After that, Dennis made a dog trap that stung the noses of any dogs who dared come sniffing around our area – and we heard the yelps as they disappeared off into the darkness for a few nights until they learnt their lesson, and now we hardly see any dogs around at all! That’s amazing for Samoa, where the population of dogs is probably more than people on this small island!
One morning another three medium sized chicks fooled me, turning up for the first time. I got confused at first who they belonged to, but eventually decided they hadn’t got an attached parent that I could see, anyway. But, I also noticed my 11 black and white chicks had reduced to seven and was sad to think that some dog may have been licking his lips with feathers protruding!
So with the scene set – about twenty chicks and another eight or so adults here every morning – what have I learned about life?
- Life for some is fleeting – here one minute, gone the next. I experienced that myself when I lost my older brother in a car accident over 30 years ago. Make the most of life, love family and friends while you have them, because while you can remember once they have gone, you can no longer hold them close. Regret becomes a haunting word. So live life forgiving as you need to each day so that you don’t go to bed with regrets at night.
- There are always enemies on the prowl, so keep your ears and eyes open and keep safe. Know where you can go for safety, but don’t let your safety become a chicken coup that stops you from venturing out to taste what the life has on its menu.
- Respond quickly at the first sign of trouble. If you leave it too long, it might be too late to do anything to protect yourself for the future.
- Be thankful for your parents’ advice as they were teaching and nurturing you. And – Mum’s, boys will want to go their own way at times – you just have to keep a look on them from a distance for them to become the ‘rooster’ they are meant to be, and be able to look after their own family in the future!
- It’s always better to eat together with parents when you are younger – it is a nurturing time. So, parents, set the example and adhere to it, despite the business of the day around you.
- There are varying levels of independence and growth and parents need to know when to guide their little ones closely, and when to step back and let them do things for themselves. After all, if they are with you, they won’t starve!