www.whyville.net Jan 26, 2014 Weekly Issue

Guest Writer

My Chicken and I

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I decided to write this article about a place and about an animal which I hold very dear to my heart; Gardening Club and a chicken. About a year ago, I was finding trouble fitting in. I'm the smart girl, the one who most people wouldn't be seen dead talking to, the one who didn't have a sense of style. There was, however, one girl who talked to me. Soon, we became fast friends. She told me about Gardening Club, bringing me along one lunch time to try it. She showed me the school chickens, the gardening beds, the fishes and the greenhouse. I was introduced to the supervisor, given a letter for my mum and told to ask her to sign it. The following week, I brought it back and was allowed to fully participate for the first time. I was kitted out with my own pair of steel-toe-capped boots, given a spade and joined in turning over the soil. It was then, that for the first time in months, that I felt that I had friends.

I was still a misfit, of course - gardening at school is not considered "cool" - but now, at least I had someone to talk to and eat lunch with. To begin with, at least, we only ever went to Gardening Club at lunch. Break was spent on the field, eating snack with other people. However, when it got too cold for this, we asked the supervisor if we could spend break there, too. The answer was yes. Although, in some ways, my social life outside of Gardening Club ended at this point, I was beginning to feel a lot more confident.

Not long after this, I heard news that a chicken - a black one - was running round our field. I thought nothing of it at first. Then the next day, we walked down to gardening club and saw a little black rooster sitting on the grass! None of ours were black, and he wasn't in the coupe, so it was a bit of a puzzle as to why he was there. However, when the supervisor came, he explained that the little rooster was found on the field and he brought him back to Gardening Club. He had tried to put him in the coupe with the others, but a bigger cockerel, George, did not take kindly to this. He fought with the black rooster and Ben let him walk around the beds. He told us to name him and we did; his name was Ash.

We've had Ash for over half a year now. He's adorable! We've built up his trust over the months and now we can stroke him and pick him up! We learned that he was from a chicken farm - maybe one which kills chickens for meat, so we were even happier that he escaped. I love Ash with all my heart. Yes, you may say that it's stupid, to love a chicken as I do, but Ash is just like a person. I am sure he feels the same emotions as you or I. He has eyes which look as if he were a person!

Here I am stroking his beak.

See? Isn't he gorgeous? Winter is at its fiercest in England so we labored over a wooden house for a week to get it ready for Ash. When it was first built, he refused to enter it, instead sleeping fully exposed on the fence. I mean . . . that's a little silly, right?

He uses it now, but only because we kicked him out of the greenhouse (not literally) and it got too cold to sleep outdoors. I obsess a little too much over Ash, so I'll give the other three chickens a chance to be in the spotlight, shall I? Meet George, Zippy and Zappy:

Zappy doesn't have a red beard, Zippy does. These three chickens were rescue ones. Our head teacher donated them to us about three years ago and we've looked after them ever since! Here's a sad story, though. Zappy and George had seven chicks, only two of which survived! We called the black one Jetty and the other one . . . I forget its name. Well, the surviving chicks were both boys and George, being the dominant male, had started to peck Jetty. Jetty was bleeding, had a deformed left foot and was clearly in pain when we rescued him and his brother. Our head teacher took them home and tried her best to care for them, but Jetty didn?t make it. We were only told once.

At the moment, because it's winter, very little goes on. Recently, we constructed hedgehog houses at the back of our field. Daily, we turn the soil over in the beds to make sure that the earth will be nicely dug for Spring, when the real planting begins. We grow food for our school. These include sweetcorn, potatoes, peas, beans, carrots, parsnips, strawberries, raspberries, gooseberries, blackcurrents, redcurrents, rhubarb, pumpkins, etc. Last year, we focused on growing and eating, sharing the produce between three of us. Consequently, strawberries became as common as ants and just as tasty!

I really think that Gardening Club has improved me in many ways; I can do some good physical labour; I don?t mind so much if I get dirty; I can care for animals. Gardening Club means a lot to me. I really look forward to it. There are only a handful of students who come, but we are like a family now; there's a bond between us that nothing but the heart can see.


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