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Our crazy mixed up chicken

Our crazy mixed up chicken

Taken from the Reader's Digest Archives back in 1994, this is the story of an extraordinary hen that was convinced it was a dog

It was a test-tube baby, one of the experiments conducted by our daughter Peggy in her veterinary studies at university. Something went wrong and all the chicken embryos succumbed before hatching. All except Oliver.

From his first cheep it was impossible not to love this small, yellow ball of fluff on two spindly legs. During his first two weeks, Peggy had to feed the chick every hour. She made a paste from maize meal and water, then offered a fingertip to Oliver, which he pecked at enthusiastically.

Oliver’s brush with the law

ChicksChicks are natural explorers. Credit: Toa55

Soon Oliver was given free rein. He wandered from room to room, pecking at anything that shone: mirrors, keys, teeth. Peggy's call of "Oliver" would bring him running. But then he had an encounter with authority. He was kicked off campus for eating all the prize worms in the college greenhouse.

Oliver eventually came home

Oliver was three weeks old when Peggy brought him home. She knew that at our house—referred to as "the menagerie" by friends—Oliver would be loved. Peggy had been importing strays almost from her cradle, and her three brothers contributed their share of furred and feathered house guests.

 "How come you called him Oliver?" Michael, our ten-year-old, was his usual critical self. "It looks like a girl. It's all yellow.”

""It looks like a girl. It's all yellow”"

 “All baby chicks are yellow" replied Peggy.

"How can you be sure it's a boy?" said Michael.

"There are ways of determining sex other than by colour," Peggy retorted with scientific finality.

Soon Oliver met the other pets

At the time of Oliver's arrival, our adopted residents numbered five: Jimbeau, a French poodle; Abraham and Lincoln, black and white Scotties; Sybil, a mist-coloured angora cat and Chico, a parrot auctioned off because of his vulgar vocabulary. The Scotties accepted Oliver with quiet cordiality. Sybil enjoyed playful games of swat and run—she'd swat, and Oliver would run. Chico, enraged at the potential challenge to his position, swore whenever Oliver scurried past his cage.

Oliver realised he may be a dog

Dog and chickenIt is not unknown for animals of different species to form deep attachments to each other. Credit: infinityy

After Peggy returned to school, Oliver picked Jimbeau as surrogate parent. It was a relationship not altogether greeted with glee by Jimbeau. But the poodle's aloofness fascinated Oliver; he followed him everywhere. When Jimbeau, tiring of the constant chirping, sought refuge behind the sofa, Oliver followed.

"After Peggy returned to school, Oliver picked Jimbeau as surrogate parent"

Jimbeau retreated to the bathroom, closing the door with his paws. Oliver waited outside, poking his bill beneath the door to reassure Jimbeau he was still there. Jimbeau then made a dash forthe garden. Oliver quickly followed.

Oliver and Jimbeau became friends

Running chickenChickens have up to 14 different types of play that they can exhibit. Credit: TomasSerada

In time, Jimbeau reluctantly took up the role of foster father, permitting Oliver to cling to his back while he made his garden inspections, even allowing him to nestle beneath his chin while he dozed. Oliver never perched when he slept; instead he would flop over on his side when tired, stretching out his legs in imitation of his beloved Jimbeau.

Oliver developed a taste for music. When Eric, our 12-year-old, played the organ, Oliver positioned himself on top of it, moving from side to side to the music. A change in rhythm seldom caught him off guard—after a few measures, he usually caught up.

Oliver was actually female

Chicken and eggChickens can lay eggs around once a day. Credit: Sherman2013

One April afternoon, Eric came home to find what he thought was an Easter egg on the kitchen table. It was small and almost blue in colour. Once the egg was in his mouth, Eric recognised the error of his ways. Michael was right: Oliver was a she.

"Eric recognized the error of his ways; Oliver was a she"

Oliver seemed ashamed that the secret was out. Whenever she felt an egg coming on, she'd sit in a corner until the thing was expelled, then get as far away from the dismal object as possible. It was an identity crisis.

Life after Oliver

Dog and chickensPets are an irreplacable part of any family. Credit: Kozorog

Oliver's demise was sudden. One day I found her lying on the living-room floor. We buried her with full honours in the garden. For days Jimbeau moped beside the grave, only in death being able to admit his love. The household hasn't been the same since Oliver's passing. That chicken was one of a kind, proof that every creature can share the wonderful experience we call love—even a hen convinced she's a dog.

This article is from the RD Archives (June 1994)

Banner Credit: Dog and chicken (JaneFaizulin)

 

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