Chicken Lady Day

National Chicken lady day (US) came about to honour Dr. Marthenia “Tina” Dupree, a woman who worked for 12 years in the second largest chicken restaurant in the world (and, rather more integrally, helped to raise educational standards in the United States as Director of Community Relations and Training), but chicken ladies the world over can, and happily do, also take this day as an honorary hat tip to them.

There are a surprising amount of chicken ladies in Christchurch alone and they are not limited to the countryside – the resurgence of backyard chickens is on the rise and as a crazy chicken lady myself, I can vouch for the fact that once you start keeping chickens, you will never want to go back.

Chickens really are a champion pet – not only do they provide you with fresh eggs every morning, but they also show affection in their endearingly goofy, chicken way. Our girls like to follow us about as we do gardening, jump onto the windowsills and stare in at us curiously as we eat dinner, and try their luck at an indoors adventure or lap cuddle.

Cover of Chicken by Annie PottsThey are also not the scatter brains that people think – a study conducted by Australian University in 2015 found that chickens can count, while a report by neuroscientist Lori Marino has revealed chickens to be on a par with many other animals when it comes to self awareness and emotion. If you are wanting to learn more about the chicken, Annie Potts, associate professor and co-director of the New Zealand centre for human-animal studies at the University of Canterbury, has written a highly informative and entertaining book on the chicken from its origins as a jungle fowl to its current status as domesticated poultry. Along the way, Potts explodes the many misconceptions and myths surrounding this often revered and conversely often mistreated animal.

There are so many fantastic books on chicken keeping at the library, which will help chicken ladies as they begin their mama hen journey. A real stand out for me is the chicken chicks guide to backyard chickens, which gives helpful day to day advice on selecting a breed, your chicken routine, how to treat your ill chook, dietary requirements and much more. Our selection of books on backyard chicken keeping are really worth a look at whether you are new to chicken keeping or not.

The library also has an excellent selection of books which serve as a guide to the many chicken breeds out there- from the hard working to hybrids to the fancy show girls. Just a warning though- once you start with one type of heritage breed you won’t want to stop adding to your flock.

Wanting to go the extra mile and build your own coop? The library has some great books on the subject filled with ideas and even detailed plans of your new architectural wonder.

November fourth is the ideal day for chicken ladies the world over to celebrate their successes – and for aspiring chicken ladies to take the plunge and start up their new flock. As Kathy Mormino  (the chicken chick) says in her guide, the question isn’t why chickens but why not chickens?

Find out more

Kōrerorero mai – Join the conversation

Cool stuff from the Selectors: Feeding frenzy

Eating. It’s the most natural thing in the world yet it is becoming increasingly loaded with emotion and so-called science. This can leave the most sensible of us awash in recipes and diet plans.

To add to the dilemma of what to eat as adults, we are now increasingly concentrating on what to feed our children. Now in “my day” (yes I know that sounds dreadful but I can’t think of any other way to put it) we blended up a bit of pumpkin, threw in some cheese ( if we had any),  pureed apple or banana and that was that. Did this lead to lack of vitamins, macro-nutrients, poor eating habits and an addiction to sugar? I really don’t know… My children seem reasonably healthy, but with the addition of twins to our family I am aware that there is much discussion, and a certain amount of anxiety amongst new parents when faced with the endless opinions and debate around food.

So here are some new titles that will either help or hinder the feeding process!

CoverLittle Foodie: recipes for babies and toddlers with taste

Michele Olivier describes herself as a complete control freak and I have to agree with her. The book emanates from a blog she created when feeding her daughter Ellie and is full of organic, fresh, tasty meals. She suggests all you “need is a couple of hours each month  and a passion to give your baby the best”.  Good luck with that.

CoverBaby-led Feeding

This book is very attractive with colour pictures accompanying  each recipe and plenty of interesting ideas for first food. I struggled a bit with the cost factor of strawberry and goat cheese spread, simple poached salmon (I can’t even afford this for the adults in my family let alone the children) and tomato fennel soup, but that aside there are some good ideas in here for all the family.

CoverBaby Food Matters: what science says about how to give your child healthy eating habits for life

For those of you who are serious about this baby feeding business!  Packed full of ideas including the blindingly obvious “… don’t pressure him to eat past the point at which he feels full” or “limit unhealthy foods and snacks” to in-depth information and charts for average daily energy requirements in the first year of life, recommendations for the required amount of vitamin D, and how to cope with fussy eaters. There are no pretty pictures in this book!

CoverPet Cookbook: Easy everyday recipes for happy healthy pets

Now that we are educated on how to feed our children we can turn our attention to the family pet with the Pet Cookbook: Easy everyday recipes for happy healthy pets. Treat them to watermelon pupsicles, a tasty salmon log, pupcakes, chicken scramble (apparently chickens love this even though they are eating their own) and a super smoothy.  Heck, use these recipes yourself – they look great!

Inside the mind of a post-apocalyptic dog

At first I wondered how far a story from the point of view of a swearing cockney dog could go.

At least across post-apocalyptic London.

The Last Dog on Earth is told mostly from the point of view of Lineker the dog, but alternates between him and the journal of his cripplingly shy owner, Reginald Hardy.

Linekker calls him “Two-Plates.” Two Plates – Plates of Meat – Feet. Two Feet. Cockney rhyming slang is simple?!

I have to say of the two, Lineker is the most interesting. Once he got inside my head, I couldn’t stop imagining what it would be like to think like a dog:

“I’m skittering and sliding, halfway across the floor before I even know I’ve left my bed. And he’s rubbing his hairy face and scratching that huge arse of his, releasing that heavenly aroma of salt, peat and tripe that’s all for me and before he knows what’s happening I’m in the air and bouncing at him – bounce, bounce, bounce until he gets down and gives me a scratch…face-to-face so I get the sweet fog of his breath, a rich soup of saliva and half-digested food that’s been marinating beautifully for the last eight hours. And it’s too much, I just have to lick him…” (p.3)

The clever way that Adrian J. Walker describes a dog’s consciousness had me believing it.

Did you know that dogs can smell history? That explains why they take so long at lampposts.

That’s not all. Lineker reckons he can smell your dreams, too; memories; “the bone-bag abandoned on the moor,” and fear. Fear smells like voles.

Squirrels? Oil and eggs, of course. And spices – “like ants exploding up my nose” (p.4).

The good people of London have been betrayed by their affiliations on social media. The tension builds as Reg and Lineker attempt to take a little girl to safety, crossing the lines of two factions fighting for control and discovering a group of resistors.

But first, Reg has to get up the gumption to leave his secure little nest. And his fear of people touching him.

Walker uses a bird motif to great effect through the story. Poetic, this links events and is a vehicle for Lineker’s longing to escape the confines of regularity to explore the wildness of life.

Filled with “good bits” and “bad bits” poignant and pondering between small bouts of brutality, The Last Dog on Earth is also laugh out loud funny.

The Dog muses on the human condition since wolves came down from the hills to join the human’s campfires; his adoration for his master, and food, among other things:

“I stand on the brink of this new world of breakfast, trembling like a pilgrim father in the waters of Cape Cod. And then it comes and the smell smashes into me…my bowl’s on the floor and I’m in it, chomping it, inhaling it. By the time it’s done, I can barely remember who I am or what it was I just ate…”

Walker played with my expectations at the end, delivering a twisted conclusion. I could have (almost) killed him.

Happy Year of the Dog!

More dog stories

Pets and fireworks don’t mix

22382403_10213144851508211_6562001469831516731_oFireworks went on sale recently and even though Guy Fawke’s night is over people are still setting them off each night. Most pet owners dread this time of year. Our wee darlings and big tough pets alike crumble into anxious dribblers.

My ditzy fluff-ball Zac (pictured with his favourite toy pig) whimpers and tries to hide behind my legs. I heard swaddling them helps them feel safe. I tried a tight-fitting jersey which seems to work a treat during fireworks, thunderstorms, earthquakes etc.

Find out more:

All creatures great and small – celebrate World Animal Day 2015

Cover of Brother Sun, Sister MoonWorld Animal Day is an international day of animal rights. It is held annually on 4th October, on the feast day of St Francis of Assisi.

On this day, some churches have the blessing of the animals. I don’t have any experience with this, but if the Vicar of Dibley is anything to go by, it’s a bit chaotic.

On a more serious note, it is good to know that (even in 13th century Italy) someone was sticking up for the animals. Animals need our help and protection, whether they be family pets, farm animals, zoo animals, or animals living in the great-out-doors.

Organizations such as SPCA, Cats Protection League, Department of Conservation, Forest and Bird and our own Christchurch City Council all champion the right for animals to have a good life.

For those who want more, we have a selection of books on animal rights. If you are a pet owner, check out our books on pet care. If your interest is wild animals, our collection of books on wildlife conservation will be of interest.

To get involved with other animal lovers, search for the specific animal you are interested in in our CINCH directory.

Cover of Why Animals Matter Cover of A New Zealand Book of Beasts Cover of All Creatures Great and Small Cover of The Ten Trusts

B is for…

Cover of Care for Your BudgerigarBobby, a blue and white budgie that I remember from childhood – he could say his name, address and telephone number (presumably in case he got lost?) and ‘beak-planted’ onto the floor of the cage from his perch one lunchtime when my brother and I were listening to Listen with Mother on the radio. We buried him with great sorrow and solemnity in the garden – his casket a no longer required Berlei Bra Box.

B is for ‘Bubble & Squeak’ – several sets of gerbils that lived with us for a time that all had the same name because my brother wasn’t that creative in the name department. Any visitors to our house had to be careful where they walked in our garden as the ‘headstones’ indicating where they had been ‘finally rested’ eroded over a period of time.

B is for Brenda who hated rodents with a passion and wouldn’t enter our house unless the gerbils were either back in their cage or playing in an old yellow baby bath. Unfortunately she didn’t realise they could hop out of the bath and it invariably meant she clambered onto the nearest chair (no mean feat wearing stilettos) and screamed the place down until we found them, picked them up by their long tails and put them back in their cage. Ah, memories!!

B is for Boris the parrot. I looked after him for three long weeks when his owner went into hospital. The owner had spent a lot of time at sea in his earlier days and that bird had picked up some very salty language! Boris was a fantastic mimic – he had me dashing to my intercom several times before I realised he was making the buzzer sound. He kept me giggling with his ‘falling off a cliff’ routine. I would say ‘fall of a cliff, Boris’ and he would eagerly respond with ‘Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrggggggh SPLAT’ in a very deep cockney voice. The downside to our brief relationship was his affinity for profane vernacular. It wasn’t long before the other residents in the building were giving me a wide berth as they wondered what uncouth lunatic I had living with me in my flat.

Cover of Games and House Design for ParakeetsSeveral years on B is for ‘Budgie’ again… I would like another one and have been searching the non-fiction section of several libraries in my daily travels.

So if you are interested in budgerigars, parakeets, parrots, cockatiels and macaws as pets then head straight to the 636 section in the non-fiction and see what it entails. As for me, I’m going to be choosing my words very carefully with the budgerigar.

Scratch and grab

Cover of Chicken Whisperer's Guide to To Keeping ChickensWhen I told various people we were thinking of getting a couple of hens they assured me we would love having them. My thoughts were more along the lines of: chooks = garden turned over and manured = eggs. Not ‘chooks – I’ll love having them in our life’.

The first few nights of the fat bottomed girls being in residence in the coop involved our flatmate climbing into the coop, showing the girls where the roosting bar was and physically lifting them into place. A new ramp was made, the f-b girls learnt to motor up it in no time and the flatmate went back to having a life.

Cover of Dirty ChickWe are quite besotted with the big footed raiders already, but due to space restraints we’ve stopped there. Otherwise there would be a couple of pigs grubbing around somewhere as per Antonia Murphy, author of Dirty Chick. She moved to New Zealand from the US, her pipe dream being to have a bit of land, some chickens etc. Things get a bit out of hand and ever so slightly stressful as her stock wander the neighbourhood amongst other things. Let’s say she takes to country life with gusto… I wouldn’t say she calmly bestrides the chaos, but she copes with great humour and I am quite envious of her menagerie.

Cover of The Chicken ChroniclesAlice Walker on the other hand had been raised with chickens for eggs and meat and finding herself living in Mexico realised they were missing from her life. Enter Gertrude Stein, Babe, Glorious, Rufus and Agnes of God, turning her thinking to the interdependence of humans and the chickens. The Chicken Chronicles is more a memoir of a journey.

Meanwhile at Chez Bishi, and I can’t say we weren’t warned, Camilla and Priscilla have been escaping their carefully established playground away from my vegetable gardens and been caught scratching and grabbing with the odd guilty glance over the shoulder and then running away when in danger of being put back in the playground. The kids would never have got away with what these two chicks manage.

Are you thinking of taking on some egg laying devices? Still sitting on the roost perhaps? Afraid you might find yourself clucking round the garden with small feathered friends in tow? Take the plunge: you’ll be in good company.

Must Love Cats – or Dogs?

momo croppedChristmas is kitten season. All the feral cats around the city and those who live with people but who haven’t been in for their ‘little op’ get jiggy with it and the result is shelters full of kittens.

We succumbed last week and after a visit to the SPCA, and are now the proud owners of a 10 week bundle of joy called MoMo who often seems cunningly disguised as a thermo-nuclear explosion crossed with an Eveready bunny!

It got me thinking about how I am definitely a cat person. I grew up with both cats and dogs, along with goats, sheep  and other sundry animals. This included the great guinea pig breeding programme I embarked on when I was 13. Lets just say that the aspersions they cast upon rabbits and their mating habits can equally be applied to guinea pigs.

But I digress.

I love the way cats walk a fine line between indifference to humans and devotion. The cats I’ve lived with have varied wildly in personality. I once had a stealth sitter. You could be minding your own business sitting on the couch, look down and there was Sam curled up asleep, and you had no idea  how long he had been there.  My current adult cat craves attention, but does not do laps nor does he like being picked up.

I like that I can leave cats to their own devices while I’m at work and they behave, although that won’t be for a while for our wee kitten tornado. I love their funny little habits and stubbornness. I also find them quite intuitive. My old Sam saw me through some tough times, he was always there for a pat and a cuddle when I needed it, and their fur soaks up a good many tears.

Dog people love them because they are loyal and you can train them to do stuff. I’m guessing this as I am a cat person and have only observation to go on. But my husband’s recently departed Tortie was the most loyal animal I have ever met. You could also say obsessive. She loved him with a quirky passion and deeply resented me til her dying breath for breaking up their little partnership seven years ago.

It’s been a while since I’ve had a kitten, so I’m checking out books on raising kittens, and I found myself watching a toddler terrorise the library and I thought, “she’s just like my kitten”. Momo is providing great fun for us all and increasing companionship for our older cat as they get to know each other.

So tell me, are you a cat or dog person? Or maybe you like ferrets? What do you love about your animal of choice?

The DIY approach to names

CoverNames have always been DIY to a degree, but they used to come from a traditional pool of existing names. Now many parents choosing completely original names for their children, although it is still true that a library can never be to too thin, too rich, or have too many baby name books.

However there is another DIY name tradition in our family which originated with an Irish woman of our acquaintance who had her very own DIY approach to names. For example, she called Hydrangeas, Hygeraniums and Rhododendrons, Rosiedenderons.

This turned out to be an excellent game for cold winter afternoons – create you own plants and animals out of already existing ones. You can also start by drawing an animal, with a piece donated by each participant and then name it.

Choosing a name for a child is of course a solemn and important task, but pets give one a whole canvas for the creativity of DIY. There are books of pet names and websites with such things as literary cats to guide you, but the best fun is had from making up you own.

I like my cat names to reflect their nature. I had two cats called Mack and Mabel because one was had a white bib and always looked neat and demure and the other had a wild look in his eye that reminded me the mad Scotsman in Dad’s Army (Mack was short for MacTavish).

My current cat unfortunately bears a name designed only to expunge his original inappropriate name which, like Morse, he will never now divulge. It had to be close enough that he could still answer to it so it’s Jimmy, when it should be something closer to The Terminator. He’s a killing machine when it comes to birds and isn’t above taking on the odd human. We won’t mention what happened the arm of the man who rescued him from the roof on Feb 22nd. He recently upset one of my neighbours when she hissed at him to get rid of him and he turned around an hissed back. I’m pretty sure if he could talk he would have said “go on lady, make my day ” (wrong film I know, but you get my drift) The only thing that Arnie would not approve of is his tendency to flirt outrageously with men, which ruins the macho image just a bit.

What is your pet’s name and why did you choose it? Do you know any musicians with pets called Bach, Offenbach and Debussy? Or Sci Fi fans with cats called Schrodinger? Let me know your favourites.

Hair we go again …

How to choose the right breed of dog for me was based on reading numerous books with titles like The dog selector  and Your dream dog.

My eventual choice was Retriever – gentle disposition and good with children.  OK, so as a breed they moult and also require a good deal of walking.  The walking, I argued, would be good for me – it is!

The moulting on the other hand is the bane of my life.   I also exercise on a daily basis now with a hoover and all its nifty little attachments just to clear the hallway, floors and upholstery of the dog equivalent of tumbleweed bouncing across the dry and dusty plains! No amount of grooming (aka wrestling matches to gain control of the brushes) seems to keep the situation in check.

Eventually I will get another dog to keep this deeply loved member of the family company and I will again, no doubt, dip into a similar informative tome, but this time heading straight for the chapter (if it exists)  on gentle, über-affectionate large dogs that do not moult.   Suggestions anyone?