Unrequited Love - The Story of Zeke
Jane Eyre, Great Expectations, and Gone with the Wind - all amazing romances, with amazing characters that tug at your heartstrings and drive you mad all at the same time. They are the cornerstone of every hopeless romantic's collection, but they've got nothing on Zeke!
Zeek - A serama cockeral
Zeke is a serama cockerel (a rooster who is not yet a year old) and is in love with "Pet Chickens" founder Christy Lee's feet. (waaaat???!!) I had the opportunity to interview Christy about her Facebook group, which is the largest no-kill chicken group currently with over 20,000 members."I just don't get it, I can't wear flip flops outside because Zeke is completely in love with my feet" and she has the battle scars to prove it.
He will show off for my toes, dance, pretend he has found food...and the minute I turn my head my foot is the unwelcomed object of his affection.
"I keep telling him that if he keeps it up he's going into a bachelor pad (a coop that she keeps specifically for her boys), but I worry because he's a serama and so much smaller than the other birds, that he will get hurt."
Zeke is one of many birds in Christy's growing flock, all with unique personalities. Perhaps her most famous rooster is Mo, a 2-year-old Polish Roo. Mo is known for hiding in very unusual spots to sleep - Christy had a series on her group entitled "No MO - you can't sleep here!" He's been caught in her tractor, on a loft in the barn, under the mower and in between her deck and her stairs. It seems that each night is a hide and seek game with Mo.
When I asked Christy about what made her start the group and it's success she was quiet for a bit. "I grew up with chickens, but they weren't very friendly and I never thought of them as pets. We have a farm and love fresh eggs so we picked up 6 or 7 chicks. I expected to have eggs and chickens that hung out in the yard. What I received was a VIP membership to a family - complete with personality, pecking order and its own set of rules. I wanted to learn more about this unexpected twist..pet chickens, but there really wasn't a group out there that saw them as pets vs. livestock so I created one.
20000 members, later she credits the group success to her admins - "Our group is successful because I have some of the hardest working admins out there. Without our team, it would be impossible to properly monitor the group so that all participants have a positive experience. We have a zero tolerance policy on killing the birds or predators and it keeps the group happy and the environment positive"
I asked her specifically about predators and what made her decide that was to be a key part of the rules of the group. She laughed (I love Christy's laugh - it is infectious) and told me how she thought there was a predator in her barn and came out with a shotgun (having never used one in her life). The predator ran off, and she found out afterward that if she had fired that shotgun she would have blown the roof off of her barn.
"It's best for all, especially my barn, that if there is a predator, set a catch and release trap, You will feel better and your home will stay intact!" I shared my secret for deterring hawks (a tiny bit of fishing line in a tree - they will avoid the area) and we shared stories about how silly our birds can be.
She talked about her special needs bird, Polly (a barred rock) who has a curling toe and never really fit into the group. She was a house bird for a long time, because Christy wasn't sure she would be able to make it outside with the other birds. Then she adopted Amelia (another barred rock) and they bonded instantly. Amelia watches over Polly, finds her food and keeps the other birds from picking on her. Christy believes that the special bond between Polly and Amelia is proof that there is more to a chicken than meets the eye. "You can't have empathy without intelligence, and Amelia genuinely cares for Polly.
Polly & Amelia
We talked about Echo, her lead roo, who recently passed unexpectedly and how the flock is mourning him. Christy's family farm is called Echo farm and Echo the Roo was its namesake.
"It's quiet in the coop and no one will take his spot on the roost. I tried and the birds would have nothing to do with it, they kick out anyone who attempts to take his spot" Grief is another sign of animal intelligence that is often overlooked in chickens.
Echo - much loved, and missed
When I asked about her future plans she smiled through the phone (you can tell when someone is smiling) "We are going to continue to play hide and seek with Mo, provide insight to others as to the proper care for birds and support each other as a community. We have wonderful members, and they look out for each other, just like Amelia does for Polly. As for Zeke, well we shall see if he can get over his current foot fetish"
My recommendation? Read Zeke this article from Psychology Today on Unrequited Love, get a pair of stuffed chicken flip flops (you can get them here) and introduce the "twins" to Zeke. There's nothing like a rebound to heal a broken heart (and nothing like a good pair of tennis shoes to heal a love torn foot!) fetish"
Are you interested in having pet chickens, but not sure where to start? Check out Christy's Facebook group. You will get a warm welcome and lots of tips and advice!