Friday, November 2, 2012

It Started With The Humble Chicken

In this blog I wanted to write about my experience with birds, which actually started with the humble chicken.
 Me interacting with my chickens 
I’ve been around chickens since I was about 4 years old and my parents can attest to how I would treat them as my pets. I would carry them around the house and sit them on their back, often leaving them that way, but hey I was littleJ. One of my chores growing up was to manage the chickens. I didn’t see this as a chore, though, as I enjoyed just being around these birds. I learned that chickens could be seemingly very affectionate, which may surprise people.

Growing up with chickens taught me the power of imprinting on young birds, which means they recognize their caretaker as their mother. I raised several chicks to adults that would literally chase me down if I didn’t pick them upJ. I loved watching my chickens sunbathe or take dirt baths. Dirt baths become really hilarious if there are several chickens and they all keep kicking dirt into each other’s faces, but I don’t think they mind. Chickens were believed by Darwin to have originated in Southeast Asia from the red jungle fowl. People may be amazed at the wide variety of chicken breeds, comparable to the variety seen in horses, cats and dogs.

When I was eight our father brought home an emu. These were the most exotic birds I had ever seen; large and sometimes aggressive, but they did a great job of protecting our field from predators going after our goats. They are considered a pest of agricultural land in Australia, but apparently have a variety of uses including meat, hide used for leather and their feathers and egg shells are used for decorations and jewelry. People also use emu oil for both cosmetic and pharmaceutical uses.
 My parakeets, Blue and Odette
My experience with parrots began when I was 13 years old and I got my first parakeet named Blue (very original, rightJ). Later I got her a friend; a white parakeet called Odette. I always enjoy listening to my parakeets carrying on a “conversation” that always brightens the room.
A juvenile Red-Shouldered Hawk--my first encounter with a raptor before I worked for WBS
I’ve had a few run-ins with wild birds. I’ve been known to rescue baby robins before they could be discovered by our cats and dogs. I actually saw a raptor up close for the first time a few years ago when my father brought a juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk out from the rain. He looked stunned due to the hard rainstorm we had. After the hawk regained his senses, my dad released him near where he had found him. This was a pretty amazing encounter to me since I had never seen a raptor before then.

Of course, working for the World Bird Sanctuary has really changed that and showing people the wide diversity in birds of prey has been an amazing experience.

Submitted by Whitney Cowan, World Bird Sanctuary Grant's Farm Supervisor

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