With a cluck cluck here and a cluck cluck there

by Andrea Mulder-Slater

“Do you want to know how to rest a chicken?”

The 4 year old was in the back seat of the car, busting with new found barnyard animal knowledge.

The answer was yes. Geoff, Jan and I did want to know how to rest a chicken. Because, why wouldn't we?

Let me back up…

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about my daughter in the short time I’ve known her, it’s that she loves critters more than chocolate, jellybeans, avocados, onions and canned sardines combined.

Yeah. I don’t know whose child she is either.

And she’s not choosy. Insects, amphibians, invertebrates, crustaceans, rodents, canines, felines, bovines, equines and poultry all generate the same level of adoration from the tiny person who, since she could speak, has consistently declared, “When I grow up, I’m going to be a veterinarian, because I take good care of animals.” 
If I could, I would fill our home with as many dogs and cats as we have rooms. But I can’t. And here’s why. My kid is allergic to animal saliva. It’s a real son of a bitch because; as you may or may not know, ALL ANIMALS HAVE SPIT. Hive-inducing, itch-producing spit.

So instead, we make due with worms, crickets, moths, houseflies and any random creatures we see while barreling down the highway.


Roadside horse, spotted while driving 100km/hr.

"Can I touch it? Can I touch it? Can I touch it?"

So, this is a bearded dragon.

And that's the head of an 8 foot long snake.

 "Do you want to hold it mom?"


There aren't enough pickle jars in the world to house all of the insects this child has brought into our home.

Don't give us live seafood. These lobsters were delivered (alive) BACK into the ocean.  Geoff loves lobsters too but in a very different way.

She keeps this rabbit supplied. 
She's the pusher of the leporid world.

What you see: Squirrel heading for sunflower seeds. What you didn't see: Little girl pouncing on squirrel.

Taken just before the one on the right 
showed her his butt. 

Said to the zookeeper, "Can I feed him?" 

Cute when small. Terrifying when grown...


If you’re a follower of this blog you’ll know that this spring, we took a chance and  adopted a well-hung black bear hamster. Not exactly a dog but much better than a cricket, and - according to our rodent guys (Joe and Philip) - would be alive for 2 to 3 years.

Blackie before.
However, through no fault of their own (probably), Joe and Philip provided us with a dud who – very sadly – went from sick to stiff in a 24 hour period, just 5 short months after coming home with us.

It was a lesson I was not prepared to have my daughter learn at such a young age. Lesson being: you should never, under any circumstances, trust a rodent guy.

Blackie is buried now, in his hamster ball. So he can run. For eternity.

Blackie after.
Shortly after the fatality, Geoff brought home an abandoned baby field mouse.

There are no words.
That little guy filled the void -- for exactly five days, after which time he too found a special place in our garden, which is fast becoming known as the shrine of death.

In case you’re wondering, my daughter handled the expiration of the rodents as well as can be expected. Yes, there were lots of tears, questions, answers and hugs. Also, a few choice expletives (and a curse) directed at our rodent guys. But now the girl has parties in the garden - with her dead friends.

That’s perfectly healthy, right?

The hurt was eased one blissful day when, while at the neighbor’s house, my child discovered that the laying hens roam freely during certain times of the day.
Sure, they look docile enough. That's what they want you to think.
Sure she had handled a couple of newly born baby chicks, but full-sized, egg-laying, dirt-scratching, bug-eating birds? This was better than donuts.

I on the other hand, was less enthused.

I'm a good mom. I've touched wriggly grasshoppers. I've allowed my wrist to be adorned with live worm "bracelets". I've petted slugs.  But I draw the line at chickens because chickens give me the willies.
Her: Can I touch it?

Me: Uh… 

Her: Will it bite me?

Me: I don’t thi….. 

Her (cradling the bird): It’s so soft!

Me (inside my head): Oh dear god, oh dear god, oh dear god… 

Her: What is this flappy thing for? Do you want to pet it?

Me (eyes shut): Lemonade, tulips, ocean breezes, sandwiches, happy place, happy place… 

Her (whispering): Can I bring this one home since they have lots?

And so began a daily late-summer ritual for the 4 year old. Visit the neighbors. Play with the neighbor’s kids. Hold the neighbor's chickens. Try to smuggle a chicken home.


It’s a routine which has provided her with invaluable skills, like how to rest a chicken.

"First, you find a chicken that doesn’t move too fast. This is important. Then, you bend down and pick the chicken up, under her belly. Put her face on your shoulder, so she can see behind you. She likes that. Don’t forget to rub her feet, because chickens get sore feet  you know. Then, you lay the chicken down, on the ground and rub her tummy."


Understand, I'm paying attention to every word because I never know when this child will succeed in sneaking one of those flappers home and I'll actually find myself in the position of having to "rest" a chicken.
Maybe I'll just show it the pet cemetery.

No, really.

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