14 July 2010

001 - Introduction - Who am I, and How it All Started

[For a more casual journal that's just simple, day-to-day events in my chickens lives, try my LiveJournal: http://olychickenguy.livejournal.com/ - This blog will be focused mainly on my studies and observations of chicken psychology and behaviourism. This first post is a copy / paste in both blogs, simply to make known who I am and what I'm doing. No further posts will be copy / paste of each other.]

This post will be the introduction to my blog following the ongoing study of my chickens behaviour, health, psychological and physical development, emotional state, and so fourth. I suppose the first thing I should do is make note of who I am and why I'm taking on this project...

I go by the name of "Ky", short for Kyeaideh, as a simple, quick, and easy name for people to say and remember. I grew up in a family of entrepreneurs with animals always in my life - two guinea pigs, two mice, a grey-cheeked parakeet, and seven dogs. The first guinea pig and dog I don't remember much of since they died when I was little. The second guinea pig only lived a year and a half until he died of congestive heart failure, and the two mice died of tumours - they were brought home from school by my brother when I was very young. The second guinea pig, two mice, and grey-cheeked parakeet all died when I was quite little. Three of the dogs we had I grew up with, one joined us when my grandmother passed away, and then all four grew old together. There were two lonely, quiet weeks where no animal was in the house, then we adopted a new puppy, and awhile later another came to be her companion.

I seemed to attach to the dogs more than the humans in my early life, and learned to communicate with them before humans. I grew up knowing and using dog psychology, creating some social friction between my peers and me, but I liked my dogs better, anyway. I think I still do.

At only three years old my mind was set on becoming a veterinarian, my mother tells me. I still want to be a veterinarian with a focus in genetics, although lately animal psychology is a little more appealing, but regardless of what I focus on, I want to be in a clinic studying medicine front and foremost.

I never watched much television, so when I was taking my Veterinary Assisting and Grooming course and was told repeatedly that my way of handling the animals, specifically the dogs, was fascinating and akin to the "Dog Whisperer", I was thoroughly confused. I eventually caught up with Cesar Millan, though, and found his "calm assertive + dog psychology" technique to be quite infallible for me. I later adopted this technique for my chickens, replacing "dog psychology" with "chicken psychology".

"But I thought this blog was about chickens, not dogs?" you might say. And you're right. When I moved in with my current house mates, one is a born-and-bred farmer, and had baby chicks in the house. I agreed to help raise them in lieu of rent, so the first brood of four were moved into my room. They were only a month old. At the time, I was terrified of birds - all birds... but I had been visiting these chicks since they were days old, and their tiny, content chirrups when being held, and their soft little downy feathers had me in love at first sight. I wouldn't put the poor things down when I would come to visit.

That day my house mates and I went out to buy the dogs new cages, and some necessities for the chicks. When we arrived home, my room had been ransacked and the chicks gone - the dog had eaten them, as he had the previous brood. It wasn't until late in the evening of the next day, nearly a year ago, that I started to hear distressed peeps. I thought the dog had taken one of the chicks out of the house and it somehow survived the night, so I leapt out my window, not wanting to lose the lead by going through the house, only to find the peeping was coming from inside. I scrambled back through my window, and followed the peeping to find one lone chick hiding under a spare computer case I had lying around. She nestled up in my arms and stopped crying immediately when I hugged her and started performing a basic physical check-up to look for any obvious signs of injury - bleeding, broken bones, etc. She was perfectly fine, just shaken up and very hungry.

From that day forward, the little chick would not leave my side. If I was more than about three feet away from her, she would start screaming, and even learned how to fly across the room just so that she could stay with me. She would even hop out of her tank, and run through the house if I was gone too long. She would "PEEP PEEP PEEP!!" ( a chick's way of saying "MOMMY MOMMY WHERE ARE YOU?!" ), and I would call back, "Agatha! I'm right here, Agatha!" As chicks do, she would play Marco-Polo until she found me, and there she would stay huddled underneath my feet.

I sometimes would make a game out of this and take her out into the field behind the house and set her down in the tall grass where she couldn't see me, but call out to her and watch the grass move just to see how accurate she was in coming to me. The tall grass was an excellent way to test her hearing because there was no way she could see me, especially when I ran off ten or twenty feet away, and yet I could still see the grass move as she waded through it.

I waited until she was done exploring her surroundings and began to peep for me, trying to find where I was. "Agatha!" I would call back to her. There was a pause, then a scuttle and the grass swayed and moved as she made her way towards me. She would stop, trying to figure out where she had heard me and peep again. "Come'ere, Agatha!" Again a scurry as the grass flitted and swayed out of the way. This would go on until she found me, and once under my feet she would again start pecking at the ground, making quite content and happy noises now that she had found me.

I would report back to my farmer house mate quite often. "Wow, she's really smart! She comes when I call her, and I've even taught her boundaries!" One thing I also did when I noticed she was crying much more than normal and my house mate suggested letting her eat bugs to encourage protein in her diet, was teach her to balance on a hockey stick while I carted her around the house, and she would eat the spiders up in the very top of the ceiling, and flies right out of the air. I would say, "Agatha, it's time to do your job!" and she would get quite excited, dancing around in circles while peeping and trilling. I would set her on the blade of the stick and she would take only a moment to balance, then her eyes were peeled for anything edible. I even taught her "Up!" so that she would look up when a bug was above her.

"Yes," my house mate responded one day when I was again impressed with Agatha's impossible intelligence, "Some people even say that chickens are smarter than dogs."

"Really?" I asked, intrigued, "I'm going to have to test this!"

And my intrigue with training chickens and studying their behaviour began, fully fuelled by that first curious chick and a little snippet of information that challenged a concept that I had been working on for years - "Any animal can be interacted with and trained so long as you learn THEIR language and use it with them." I even ended up conditioning a spider to come to where I pointed my lamp, as that was where bugs would fly into her web. That was the only spider in the whole house I spared from Agatha.

Agatha passed only a few months later when she began acting ill. One day I was dead-tired and decided to take a nap. While I was asleep, Agatha cuddled up with me, but when I woke, she was dead. I think she either over-heated or that I rolled over onto her, crushing her, while I was asleep. She is dearly missed, and the beginning of everything I am doing today and would love to do for the rest of my life - raising and training chickens to be pets while studying their behaviourisms and psychology in order to share my findings with the world.

3 comments:

  1. I'm enjoying your blog Ky, and trying some of your techniques with my back yard flock.
    Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for this post. Im going to try all of your suggestions! I am terrified animal control is going to pay me a visit any day now. For the most part, my neighbors are ok with the crowing- except one gal. Although I personally know her and she only lives 2 houses down, she has never confronted me directly but has voiced her annoyance multiple times on Facebook of all places. Very passive aggressive in my opinion. I've tried crow collars and baby socks with no help. My rooster is a big guy (13lbs big!) and his crow matches his size. I'm going to give some of these tips a try! Wish me luck!

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