Saturday, 10 September 2011

a fowl story..

when my eldest daughter was in about year nine at high school all of the students in her psychology class were allocated a two day old chick which they were instructed to take home and care for to demonstrate how the chick would imprint on them..according to the britannica encyclopaedia the definition of imprinting is a:

'Form of learning wherein a very young animal fixes its attention on the first object with which it has visual, auditory, or tactile experience and thereafter follows that object. In nature, the object is almost always a parent; in experiments, other animals and inanimate objects have been used. Imprinting has been studied extensively only in birds, but a comparable form of learning apparently takes place among many mammals and some fishes and insects. Ducklings and chicks, which can imprint in a few hours, lose receptivity to imprinting stimuli within 30 hours of hatching..'

my daughter named her chick 'cashmere' because he/she (at this stage cash's sex was indeterminate) had soft brown and white down that reminded her of a cashmere blanket of her grandmother's that she loved..the chick imprinted on her and the study was over but 'cash' continued to thrive in her care whereas all the other student's chicks was quite funny to see the little chick running after her or to hear his/her trill coming from under her hair where he/she roosted on her shoulder..and funny that she took him/her to the must be the only chick to ever see 'breakout'..and she would take cash for his/her daily dirt bath in my vegetable garden where it was so sweet to see this tiny little chick scratching and throwing dirt over his/her feathers just like an adult bird would..

this little chick is similar to 'cash'
it was when the adolescent 'cash' tried to crow for the first time that of course we realised we had a rooster..he grew into the most beautiful bird with soft brown/grey and white speckled feathers which we identified as similar to a turned out that 'cash' had a bit of a shoe fetish though which must have arisen because he had imprinted on my daughter's shoed feet as he ran around after her as a little bird..and because he had no feathery friends i felt sorry for him so i eventually got nine hens to keep him company and while he never quite got over his shoe fetish he did eventually learn to do his rooster thing with the hens..

he went missing for two days once and i had all but given up hope when early one morning i heard a pitiful little crow from way down the back of our garden..i was in my night attire when i trudged through the sodden grass and climbed the six foot high fence to see poor old 'cash', missing all of his tail feathers, sitting on a barrel in my neighbours garden..and at the foot of the barrel was a very large german shepherd just waiting for another opportunity to sink his teeth in..i felt no fear as i climbed over the fence and rescued my boy..i remember there were old tiles lying in the grass and i picked one up as a weapon in case the dog attacked me and/or the bird..i think i would have used it too..and maybe the dog sensed my resolve because it didn't come near me.. i hurried 'cash' inside and put him in a warm room in a cardboard box covered with a towel hoping that this strategy would be enough to save him..i also fed him little delicacies..and he survived his first ordeal..

and he survived the next ordeal where he spent two days stuck under my verandah..once again i woke to hear a sad little crow..when i realised where he was i had to jemmy up the verandah boards to release him..but he didn't survive a fox attack..the fox dug a hole under the coop's wire fence and killed 'cash' and all 'the girls' without eating a single one..

to this day i feel sad about 'cash' and 'the girls' and up until very recently i was planning on buying a coop and getting some more hens in my new old house but i've changed my mind..having had them in the past i know how much of a commitment they are and how much work it entails and i also want the flexibility of being able to go away at a moments notice..i remember the numerous trips to the green grocer for greens and buying huge bags of grain and hosing the coop out and taking one to the vet because it wasn't well and hosing them with a fine mist in heat waves and the concern i felt if one of the hens was being hassled by the i will continue to buy my eggs but i won't buy eggs from caged hens and i haven't for a very long time..

i have been given some lovely chook related gifts..too good to use french hen shaped soap and eggs, hand embroidered rooster serviettes and an antique white milk glass hen on nest dish..and recently i found a pottery hen on nest dish at the op shop which i blogged about here..

and today i don't really know why i went to the op shop because i hadn't really intended to but i did..  

and as i walked around i noticed a battered box
 on a low shelf which only just piqued my interest

but i opened it to find this..

and i turned it over to reveal this lovely trade mark

and when i took the rubber bands off i found a beautiful
 never been used hand made in the usa chicken butter mold

i checked on line and la culinaire molds of this type were made in about 1981 and are certainly worth more than the $10 i paid..

so instead of the real thing i will just have to settle for the pleasure i get from my the chook related gifts and op shop finds..


  1. Oh how very sad about Cashmere! That butter imprint is quite fetching though! Just the kind of thing I'd go crazy for. Great find!

  2. I love the story of Cashmere, one of the few non fiction books I read as a kid was by Konrad Lorenz on imprinting and his work with goslings, and years later I watched a film where Japanese people were raising cranes and had to teach them to fly - and googling just now I found a Siberian crane project.. oh i get all emotional about birds... so silly and now I have Cash to think about too. Lovely story, thank you Jane x

  3. i love birds too and i was going to mention lorenz and his imprinting studies but i thought it might be a bit technical..x

  4. thanks nqn..i'm not sure that i will use the mold..i don't know that i really want to spoil the look of it..but then maybe i won't be able to resist next time i have a roast chook meal! :)

  5. What a great story, Jane! I'm sorry about Cash and the girls, it must have been heartbreaking for you to find them in the morning. The butter mould is an amazing find...

  6. What a wonderful story--I never knew chickens could be such a delight until my daughter brought home her 10 little chicks last year.I dearly love my little 'grandchickens'--turns out they are all hens!

  7. it was really horrible wouldn't have been quite so bad if the fox had needed a was the senselessness that made it worse..

    wendy..we grew our hens from little birds too..i kept them in my laundry and they were so funny because putting the light on in the room regardless of the time of day would trigger an eating frenzy..

  8. The same thing happened to my mum a few years back. Completely senseless killing... she still misses them as well but hasn't bought them again for similar reasons.
    Wonderful butter mould....much more exciting than when I make butter and it's just slapped into a dish :-)

  9. Jane, Brydie, for what it's worth - I watched a David Attenborough program about foxes, and they've found that foxes don't kill wantonly. They're usually females with a brood to feed, and they kill with the intention of coming back and carrying off their kill and burying it for winter. What most likely happened is you found the birds and cleared them up before she had a chance to come back for them.

    I know it's small consolation though, when you've lost a beloved flock, and I know we'd be beside ourselves if anything happened to our girls...

  10. thanks celia..that really does make a difference knowing that a vixen needed to feed her young ones..and by the way i think foxes are beautiful creatures..

    brydie..i'm sorry your mum lost her's heartbreaking..she may feel a bit better about like i do after reading celia's comment..and homemade butter slapped into a dish sounds perfect to me..:)

  11. A lovely but sad story about Cash and good to hear your perspective on keeping chickens too. Being an old romantic, I keep dreaming of the day when we can keep chickens, but of course dreaming and reality are two different things. Our friends recently had all of their chickens killed by a fox too - so upsetting. As far as I know, I have never bought a caged hen egg in my life and I hope to keep it that way. Will you make butter for your new moulds?

  12. hi choclette..lovely to hear from you..i'm of the 'old romantic' type too and the 'real' world is often a disappointment..

    i don't know if i can bear to make the mould all buttery..but what's the use of it if i don't..i'm not really a collector of just good to look at objects..