the story of Lara's Penguin

On Ibalansi Farm, we have a love for all animals. Lara and i are die-hard animal lovers as we are both nature guides and love all things wild and domesticated. When we got the farm we decided to definitely share our home with almost any kind of animal that we could think of (within limits of course).

We try to keep our farm organic and so we are pretty much off the grid and natural. In organic we do have a a veg garden and we try to grow as many of our own produce as possible and we really enjoy eating what we can grow from our own vegetable patch. We also decided to get poultry. I had told Lara that one day, when the supermarkets get too expensive or theres not enough food, we will have to grow our own so to have chickens is a great investment. Lara loved her new little birds out on the farm! Every one of them now has a name and are forbidden to be consumed. We can consume the eggs though which they produce in the masses! Nothing like fresh free range farm eggs for breakfast! We had been getting so many eggs that we started to barter with our neighbors with them just like the good old days! Then one day, our hens decided that we would not get anymore eggs...I woke up the morning as a i always do with my cattle dog Brumby to get the day started, we opened up their A-frame chicken coop and one our rooster Romeo would come out for his daily feed while the hens stayed inside. I thought not to disturb them as they are laying eggs for us to collect later once they leave the nest box. A few hours later i went to check if there were any eggs for us to collect and to my surprise the hens were still in the nest boxes! What is going on? Have the hens gone on an egg strike? Being first time chicken owners, we googled of course and soon we discovered that the hens weren't on a strike but getting ready to extend the family!

Lara and i waited in anticipation, day by day, to see when the news chicks were going to hatch. After about the googled recommended hatching dates of three weeks, i went to investigate. I put on my garden gloves as the hens were getting quite pecky when you get too close and i slowly lifted each hen up to see what she was hiding. Low and behold as a i lifted the little bird up i found a few little fluffy feathered fingerling chicks! I slowly lowered the hen down dubbed 'blacky one' (we have two austrolorp black hens Lara calls Blacky one and Blacky two) and ran with excitement to the house to get Lara.

I grabbed Lara and ran back to the coop and showed her what all the fuss was about. As i lifted the hen again, Lara couldn't believe her eyes! We were soon giving the hen praises and danced around in excitement! Our first batch of chicks were born! Soon mama blacky was leading her chicks out the coop and into the big wide world.

After she had left i noticed she had left a few eggs behind. Sadly not all the eggs were hatched successfully. I guess thats just natures way. However, one particular egg was cracked and slightly open. Upon closer inspection of the egg, i noticed was still alive!

I slowly carried the egg to lara and showed her what was happening! 'Lara this chick is still in there and is trying to get out! we must do something!' Lara grabbed a box and towel and we lowered the egg into our home made nest box. I had then grabbed the tweezers from the bathroom and slowly started to dissect and remove the egg shell and casing carefully. The next thing, a little beak popped through the opening and took its first breath. like the classic movie Frankenstein i shouted-'its alive!!!' Lara was over the moon! We slowly pushed the little wet, sad looking chick out of its egg and onto the towel. I then left Lara to clean and gently care for the little new born bird while i went off to town to find those heating lamps they use for breeding little chicks. Upon my return with the lamp, i quickly wired it up and put it on and Lara had successfully cleaned the little chick up and wrapped it in a warm cloth. The little chick started chirping as it warmed up next to the lamp. A few days later, the little chick opened its eyes and saw us for the first time. We both in this moment became the new chicken parents. The little chick became more feathered and fluffy by the day and its colouration started to come through. It had this coloration of that of an african penguin. Thats when Lara turned to me and said-'we shall call this little chick Penguin or Pengu for short'. And so Penguin came into the picture.

Penguin was also joined by another chick called 'Mouse'. She was named that after being brown and small like a mouse. She was a lucky survivor of a mongoose attack in our coop. a little mongoose became a problem and ate the eggs and two chicks whom our hen 'Red' was trying to raise. We were too late to save them and we were quite sad. But, our little survivor Mouse was there to keep the penguin company. As they grew up together they got more and more use to us feeding them and their chirping got louder and louder like little infants wanting food all the time! It was almost like full time parenting and we don't even have kids yet!

Since we didn't know the sexes of our two little chicks we had to wait a while till they finally matured to see what would become of them. We soon discovered that our little mouse was a girl and our Penguin, was a boy! Oh was lara overjoyed! She had bred a little rooster! We then assumed later on that perhaps his mama was trying to remove that egg. Maybe she knew it was going to be a rooster and was trying to eliminate competition for Romeo. Who knows....

Soon, Mouse was reunited with the chicken pecking order of the flock with the two other chicks Snowflake and Chestnut and the rest, While Penguin was happily living in his nest box with us in the bedroom. The little rooster became extremely bonded to Lara. So much so, Penguin thought he was one of the dogs and would follow Lara everywhere she went. Ares our boxer and Brumby our cattle dog, were not impressed! It was time we built Penguin a home of his own. For Laras birthday, while she was visiting family in Germany, i secretly built a beautiful aviary. When she got home i blindfolded her and led her into the boma. As she opened her eyes she found her little aviary with a big red ribbon around it. She was ecstatic! The aviary also came with a little dog house i built for Penguin and he soon took occupancy of his new home alongside his two flying budgie friends.

Today, Penguin has grown into a beautiful black and red crested rooster and still enjoys a cuddle and company from us and visitors from time to time. He had overcome immense obstacles to be here with us today. With the love and care from us we are happy to have him crying his morning call for us to awake as the sun rises on our farm. I guess its safe to say that birds of a feather really do flock together!