Pet Zoo Kibbutz Shiller – The Bird’s Eye View.
My name is Tarnegolita, and I am your fancy-feathered hostess for today in this guest post on Cecilia’s blog.
I will graciously guide you through your virtual visit to my home, a small private pet zoo in a kibbutz in central Israel.
This is Pet Zoo Kibbutz Shiller, where my friends and I live. It’s a pretty good home for us! It’s got food and water, trees to roost in, ground to scratch in and dust to bathe in. You can find bugs, weeds and seeds and fly larvae in the pond… What more can a chicken ask for? Of course, I don’t have much to compare to. I used to live in a small, dark cage together with my friends, Zita and Rachel, to provide people with my eggs. I’m a commercial laying hen – egg laying is my profession, you could say. Life wasn’t very interesting for us, until we were donated to the pet zoo, where we were allowed out of our cage to walk wherever we pleased. Now, my friends and I run free, peck and scratch in the ground, enjoy the sunshine and lay eggs wherever we want. We think it’s pretty amusing to send our guardian on an Easter egg hunt every day! 🙂
In those early days, it was just Zita, Rachel and me. We had all the place to ourselves. It was heaven! But then, they started adding all kinds of animals we had never seen. The first one was a strange, big chicken, who loved to bathe in the pond all day long. We didn’t get it. I mean, what’s wrong with dust-bathing? Rachel, who was older and wiser than us, told us that the funny chicken was a duck. A muscovy duck. His name was Shulman. He didn’t speak our language, so we didn’t have much to say to each other. Our guardian got him some friends, and he seemed happy with that. We still don’t really get them, though!
Next were even stranger creatures, with long ears, four feet and fur all over their bodies. Rachel said they were rabbits. The rabbits don’t seem to speak a language at all. How they communicate is beyond me. We do NOT see eye to eye with the rabbits! Sometimes, they are allowed to run free, too, and they are terribly rude. They will run straight through your flock, and don’t even listen when you give them a good peck to put them in their place. Rabbits just don’t care!
Slowly, the humans brought in more and more animals. Strange, shy little creatures called guinea pigs arrived, who constantly whistle and squeek. They are afraid of us. When one of their doors is open, we like to go and scratch in their hay, and they all run to hide. The quail are tiny little chickens who lay funny little eggs and make nice trilling sounds. Peafowl are big chickens with long tail feathers who are much more timid than they look. We have no problems with them. They keep raising their tails at us, but we don’t know what that means, so we ignore them. Live and let live, Rachel always said.
But the most alarming addition to the pet zoo were the guinea fowl. What our guardian was thinking when she got them, I will never understand! They look like harmless, polka-dotted chickens, but oh, how looks deceive! They are vicious. They chase us all over the pet zoo. Some of us are terrified of them. Not me though! They fly much better than us, too. They go wherever they want. The fence doesn’t stop them! And they make a frightful racket, chattering and screeching all day long.
Rachel used to say we should just stay out of the guineas’ way. No point in going looking for trouble. But I got so mad when they pulled out all of Ethan’s tail feathers! Ethan is my husband. Well, he is Zita’s and Rachel’s husband too. That’s how it goes with us chickens. Ethan might be small, but he is very proud and protective. The guinea fowl love to taunt him and get a rise out of him. They are so mean! Ethan was found on the streets by someone’s dog. That someone brought him to the pet zoo. My husband doesn’t like to talk about his past. “It’s over now, and that’s all that matters,” he says. I understand. Life and humans can be very tough on chickens.
All this chicken food and rabbit chow brought mice to the pet zoo. Lots of mice. We and the guinea fowl managed to catch one now and then, but it wasn’t enough. So the people brought in more four-legged, furry creatures. These ones were called cats. We were scared of them at first, but we realised soon that these particular cats were harmless – although you’ve got to watch your chicks when they are around! They are afraid of our sharp beaks, so they run away from us. Some of them are so intimidated by us that they don’t dare to stop us eating their food. We love cat food, it’s delicious!
So this is our pet zoo! Several generations of us animals live here now. Human children come and visit us. They love petting the bunnies and they also try to pet us, but we don’t really appreciate this. The kids get really excited when they see our eggs, and they also like collecting our pretty feathers. Our guardian teaches the children about us, because she thinks it is important that human chicks learn to respect animals, in a country where animals are often treated as either food or disposable toys. I must say, I agree. It was pretty miserable being a professional laying hen.
We live our lives here in this peaceful little bubble in Israel. We are chickens, so we don’t understand or have an opinion on human politics. Our guardian gets very sad sometimes about stuff that happens outside of our bubble. She cries about terror attacks or suffering children behind the fence. I don’t really know what that means. Rachel told me that it was kind of like us and the guinea fowl. We are very different and we don’t get on, but we are forced to share the same space. That sometimes leads to chasing, pulled-out feathers and pecking. When she said that, I understood a little better.
Rachel was very wise. Sadly, she was old and didn’t fly and walk very well. One day, a dog slipped inside the pet zoo and Rachel couldn’t get away fast enough. It was very tragic. Our guardian cried again. She cries very easily, we have noticed that by now. We chickens learned from this that dogs can be dangerous, but this does not mean that all dogs are evil. I will never forget Rachel’s last words: “Try to live together in relative peace with the creatures you share this space with. None of you have anywhere else to go.”
Shalom from Tarnegolita at Pet Zoo Kibbutz Shiller