Operation Chooken

Reinventing the Chicken CoopI’ve been absent from blogging for a bit not because I didn’t have a billion books I wanted to write about, but because I’ve been buried in an ever-deepening sea of study. I’ve surfaced now, having passed some crucial milestones.

I’d like to say I’m feeling fresh and perky, but I’m really just feeling wholly exhausted and comprehensively relieved. Not to mention absolutely itching to get back into reading and blogging about the books I’ve been putting aside in favour (for want of a better term) of academic texts.

At the top of the pile are books about chickens—referred to as the more fun ‘chookens’ from here on in.

About six months ago I adopted two former battery hens—two chookens of the 43 billion chookens in the world. Randall and Coo came to me via Operation Chooken, a long-running campaign I’d waged for years against my increasingly worn-down parents.

It involved me desperate to rescue some battery hens from captivity and certain slaughter and involved my parents (still haunted by finding hens not completely killed by foxes years before that fitted through gaps that didn’t exist) far less enthusiastic for me to do so. Dealing with the aftermath of fox-induced deaths, not to mention the initial pen and run assembly, would fall heavily on my father’s shoulders. And he already had a busy schedule and plans to retire.

But, he relented and built a much-admired pen and run, and my world now revolves around Randall and Coo and their incredible spirits. They’re damaged chickens who had an unspeakably horrendous start to life, but who amaze me daily at their courage and willingness to trust me. Suffice to say, if you follow my Instagram feed (@girlcalledfred) or the hashtags #OperationChooken or #Chookens), you could be forgiven for thinking I’m a little obsessed. In the best possible way.

Roo-StarBecause we’d had chookens before, I didn’t do a lot of reading up before Randall and Coo arrived. You could say I’m doing it all in reverse now, scouring the interwebs for chooken information. Next on my reading lists are definitely going to be:

Reinventing the Chicken Coop, a book a few people have suggested I present to my pen-building father for his next birthday/Christmas/significant present-receiving day. Quite a few people have asked, based on the impressiveness of his pen- and run-building prowess. Methinks he needs some time away from pen building, but don’t worry, I have grand extension plans ready to table when I think he’ll be amenable to them.

In retrospect, the Backyard Chickens Guide to Coops and Tractors would have been a handy reference before we assembled something. The pen we have is very good, but as with anything, it’s only once you start using it that you think: It would be great if it was just/did just…I’m going to buy it for pointers for the next chooken shed I plan to scam my father to build.

I was mocked heartily by friends when I was shocked to discover that chookens lay just about every day, not monthly, as I’d anticipated. This children’s book, Chickens Aren’t the Only Ones might prove a handy, accessible text for me (and any kids I introduce to Randall and Coo).

Roo-Star, the Smartest Chicken in the Coop looks an interesting read, albeit one I’m not going to deny could be for the wrong reasons. Is it normalising that chookens should live in (factory) farms, with humans determining what’s ‘best’ for them? I’ll have to read this and see (stay tuned for an outraged post if this is the case).

GoblinproofingI’ve no idea if it’s a chooken-themed book or if chookens just happen to be the jumping-off point, but Goblinproofing One’s Chicken Coop is likely an intriguing read. In 2013 it won the Diagram Prize for the Oddest Book Title of the Year. Its blurb reads:

Plagued by pixies, goaded by goblins or bothered by gnomes? Help is on the way! Help is here. This is the essential primer for banishing the dark fairy creatures that are lurking in the dark corners and crevices of your life. In this charming guide, ‘fairy hunter’ Reginald Bakeley offers practical instructions to clear your home and garden of goblins and banish them forever! In Goblinproofing One’s Chicken Coop readers will discover:

  • The most surprising weapon to use when hunting gnomes
  • What absinthe drinking has to do with strawberry gardening
  • Why a garden fumigator may come in handy on evenings at the pub
  • Why a toy-merchant, a butcher and a freemason are among your best allies in the fight against the fey.

Goblinproofing One’s Chicken Coop is the only complete manual on how to identify, track, defend and, if needed, destroy those bothersome brownies, goblins, dwarves, scheming flower-fairies and other nasty members of the fairy realm.

Alright, it’s probably got nothing to do with chookens, but it sounds hilarious. And it beat out some stiff competition to win that award.

9780852652350Finally, I’ll be tackling Chicken Coops for the Soul just as soon as I can get my hands on it. Clearly a play on the Chicken Soup for the Soul books, it documents the tale of comprehensively fallen in love with these fascinating, intelligent, extraordinary creatures:

When Julia Hollander agreed to buy her small daughter a rabbit, she had no idea that she would end up with two hens as well. Finding herself at the wrong end of a very steep learning curve, she then had to master the many skills of hen husbandry in short order, from what to feed them to how best to fox-proof a small urban garden. Chicken Coops for the Soul is a record of the five years of trial and error that ensued, in which Julia charts the joys, challenges and inevitable moments of disappointment of allowing your life to become dominated by poultry. Fascinating and entertaining by turns, this is a book that will prove invaluable to the aspiring keeper and remind chicken aficionados why they became hooked in the first place.

If you know of any other chooken books I should add to the list, please definitely let me know.

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Fiona Crawford

Fiona Crawford is a freelance writer, editor, blogger, proofreader, and voracious reader. She regularly appears as a book reviewer in Australian BOOKSELLER+PUBLISHER magazine. Fiona is also (unfairly) known as the Book Burglar due to her penchant for buying family members—then permanently borrowing—books she wants to read herself.

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