There are cat people, there are dog people… are there any hen people? If so, I am certainly one of them. I may not have any pets now, I may be a dog person at heart, but whenever I see these little creatures, I can’t help smiling. You see, I had a pet hen long before it became a fad.
Well, it started with a sweet baby chick I brought home from the country, from my great-grandmother’s, and my grandmother had to give in. I was going through that phase so common for many children, when all they want is a dog and they never shut up about it, so my grandmother thought it was a good compromise.
But cute little baby chick grew into a cute, yet terribly loud young rooster. Let’s just say we weren’t too pleased with it… neither were the neighbours. So back to the country it went, but only after I was promised a young hen as replacement.
I had Gallina as a pet for 2-3 years and she wasn’t at all as… intellectually challenged as she was expected to be. She was also surprisingly clean, which gained her the right to walk around and sit on my lap during meals, calmly waiting for treats. Add to that a constant supply of fresh eggs and you can see why she was everyone’s favourite pet. Even grandmother’s heart melted and she would often take Gallina out for an afternoon stroll in the building’s garden. But what to me was a nice summer holiday at my mother’s, was a somewhat nightmarish experience for the poor creature, exiled back to the country for a few weeks while I was away. Let’s just say she was not happy to be there… and oh, the hygiene… the chicken coop was nothing like what she knew at home… not at all appropriate for a little lady like her.
You might think I’m a vegetarian. I’m not. I don’t even feel particularly guilty eating chicken (not the ones I had as pets, mind you, those died a natural death). But I wasn’t one of those children whose parents tell them the dog or any other family pet was sent away to live on a farm… I actually knew exactly what a farm looked like and what sort of lives farm animals have.
My great-grandmother had a gift for teaching me about death as a part of life, and she’s probably the reason why I never fell apart as a child when various pets passed away. I think she revered nature, even though she never verbalized it. She firmly believed all creatures serve a purpose, and that of farm animals was to improve humans’ lives in various ways. In their turn, humans had to take good care of them and provide them with everything they needed during their brief existence. Cruelty was unacceptable, and even in her 80s she still had a shockingly steady hand when she needed to end their little lives.
I will probably never forget how she took care of a few eggs until they hatched, because the mother hen had turned out to be less reliable than expected. As long as everybody proved their worth – dogs had to protect the house, cats had to show up with the occasional mouse as proof of their efficiency – they were rewarded and loved. A life without a purpose was unacceptable.
Those might have been just farm animals; but she believed in being decent and treating them well, I remember how she talked to them as though they could understand… the same way we do with our pets. They gave colour and purpose to her life, and she supported them so they could serve their purpose.
Like I said, I currently have no pets, but Tina (Lens-Artists Weekly Challenge – Precious Pets) reminded me of all the little souls that made my life brighter for a while, who even taught me a thing or two. The German shepherd my mother gave away without asking me (I didn’t talk to her for a couple of months because of it) showed me there can be more love and loyalty in a dog’s heart than some people will feel in a lifetime… unfortunately.
I also had a few parakeets and they seemed to go through emotions similar to ours. A couple of them had little ones. They were terribly ugly after hatching, but I was hoping they’d quickly become cute. I never got to find out; no one had told me to separate them from the mother… and she killed every little one of them. Daddy parakeet was devastated, going through something resembling depression, barely surviving the experience. Moving him to a different cage, away from her and in the company of a friend was probably what helped him. Mommy looked surprisingly serene though, even pleased to get rid of him and the babies and have the big cage all to herself. Hmm… I loved to observe their behaviour, just like these days I amuse myself observing the family of crows living in a tree in front of my window.
Thinking back, I realize I brought home several wounded birds and tried to convince my grandmother to allow me to keep them. I never brought home a cat, though… Ironically, it was my grandmother who wanted to get a cat and I refused. I’m also pretty sure my mother’s cats know I’m not their fan, that’s why they constantly try to sleep on my lap. Oh no, they’re not dumb at all, these pets of ours. Thanks for the reminder, Tina, and for making me smile while thinking of my childhood pets.