My mother always raised chickens. And when my husband and I got a place smack-dab in the country, some years ago, I wanted to raise chickens.
“Too much flippin’ work,” he said. “Never mind the fact that chickens attract weasels, foxes, you name it. No chickens!”
I got the drift: No chickens!
So imagine my delight in discovering, years later, that someone I know raises chickens. And – what’s more – invited me to come visit with her and them!
That someone is designer Valerie Rowley. She has 5 varieties of chickens.
“Silver Laced Wyandottes (small, bossy little hens); Buff Orpingtons – large, golden, affable hens – the archetypal Easter chick in fact. We also have Black Australorps – the Angelina Jolie of chickens with lustrous black feathers and large round eyes. “
“Then we have the big Light Brahmas. Grey and black with lovely feathery feet, they always make me smile. They are extremely vocal with a wide chicken vocabulary of sounds and a clumsy, waddling gait .”
“And then we have the Ameraucaunas. They lay the blue and green-shelled eggs – a throw back to a jungle fowl years ago. Sweet birds but tend to get picked on and rarely fight back.”
Happy memories from my childhood came flooding back at the sight of all these chickens roaming around the barn and the yard outside.
But raising chickens does have its challenges. Just the other day, Val was busy sewing a “chicken saddle” to protect the back feathers of Cleopatra, a hen who had attracted the amorous advances of Mr. T., the rooster.
Mr. T., Val says, “is still currently denuding more than a few of his favourite hens of their neck and back feathers in the throes of his passion”.
Well … er … ahem….
After saying hello to Mr. T and the flock, I then met the dogs. Val and her husband Chris raise and train Belgian Shepherd Dogs – the Tervueren variety.
“There are four varieties of Belgian Shepherd, but I like the Tervueren because it is not only extremely smart, athletic and loving but also very beautiful. And aesthetics mean a lot to me of course! They are also a healthy breed – not so popular, therefore not badly bred.”
Val says the Tervueren is not a dog for everyone. “They can be strong-willed and when young, often in constant motion.”
“You have to like exercise to own one of these dogs! But when they work well they look amazing. Neither Chris nor I would have anything else now.”
Thank you, Val, for a really lovely visit.
Next: Part 2. Val’s favourite spaces in her house and garden.