Meet “Bella”, NOT looking her best at the moment as she goes through her annual moult

When Straight-Comb-Bella hatched I whispered, “Be a Bella”, and she was!

Let’s celebrate the elders in our flock! Those chickens that keep on keeping on, you know the ones, they seem to have 9 lives but they’re not cats. Bella is such a chicken, turning 9 this year. Did you know that chickens can live up to 15 years? Perhaps you’ve got an older chicken too? 

When Bella hatched, I gently picked her up from under the soft warm feathers of her mum and whispered to her “Be a Bella, please be a Bella”.

Bella’s mum was also called Bella and she was very special to us in many ways. Sadly we had just lost her from complications she experienced after a fire. But we had been collecting her fertile eggs, which became, understandably, very precious.

Bella no 1. was a Silver-laced Wyandotte, but not your standard black and white feathered bird but a Blue-laced Silver Wyandotte. She was my last of this line and so this my final chance to breed more.

There was a lot of pressure on this chick, first to hatch successfully, then to thrive and then to have Blue-laced feathers. Anyway, she did it! There was a sting in her tail though, Bella was born with a straight-comb, which is considered a ‘major fault’ in the Silver-laced Wyandotte breed standard. And so, we could not breed from her (whilst we don’t show, we do breed to standard). So she got the last laugh.

She would reign supreme in our flock as the only VERY BEAUTIFUL Blue-laced Silver Wyandotte. A status that suits her fine!

Bella was born in 2013 in a spare bedroom in a previous house. I cannot recall why a group of brooding Pekin Bantams were in the third bedroom but I do remember it was fun. And, yes, bedlam. And perhaps a tad messy. Anyway, into creature comforts Bella and her siblings were hatched. Her start in life was good, Pekin Bantams make wonderful chook mothers, doating on their chicks. She was raised in a secure pen with the best food and learnt to scratch and explore her surrounds under the strict guidance of her mum from an early age. In essence she grew up safe and happy with strong family. That security has never left her. 

There are many reasons for Bella’s success and longevity:

  • She is a high status chicken
  • She is smart
  • She is gregarious
  • She is brave
  • She is cheeky
  • She has strong family 
  • She is genetically robust
  • She is well-cared for and finally,
  • She knows ‘what side her bread is buttered on’ so to speak. 

A few times over the last 18 months we thought Bella would pass. Times when she would slow down, loose her appetite, seem depressed. We would give her special treatment – scrambled eggs, kefir-soaked oats, sardines – and quietly prepare ourselves for the ‘goodbye’. She beat the odds though and rallied every time! She still lets me know that she needs special treatment, she follows me whenever she can until I bring out the soaked oats, cracked corn and sunflower seeds. 

As Chickens Age

There may be more things we need to consider as Bella ages, for example lower a perch so she can still roost but with less effort, take extra care to ensure she is always warm, watch closely for signs of parasites as resistance is compromised with age, her feet may suffer too if she becomes less active and most especially her food might need changing. The food needs of your flock change over time, Cheryl Nelson from Natural Chicken Health has an excellent blog about this called Feeding Your Flock, which is well worth taking a look at. Folks often tell us that if they come back as a chicken in a next life, they would like to come back as one of ours. I’m sure Bella has put in a few good references. She certainly has never disappointed us. Well, except for the straight—comb, but I got over that long ago. Viva la Straight-Comb Bella. Just the way she is. 

Our Upcoming Workshop

Backyard Chicken Keeping

This is a return for me to training in backyard chicken care – I used to run courses for councils, schools and community gardens before I moved south. This time though, I am so excited to be co-training with Brogo’s Cheryl Nelson from Natural Chicken Health. We will cover the basics of all things ‘keeping chickens’ – housing, breeds, health, common ailments, nutrition – essentially all you need to know to start and maintain a healthy contented flock. The course is designed to meet the needs of those thinking of starting a flock or those with a flock already. By the way, it’s a very hands on and practical course so dress appropriately and prepare to have fun.

Date: Saturday 11 June

Time: 9am to 4pm

Cheryl of Natural Chicken Health is our co-trainer:

Venue: Schoolhouse Farm, old school room and cottage
434 Upper Brogo Rd, Verona

Included: Fully catered (scrumptious vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options for morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea, tea and coffee and alternatives), course notes, product samples and prizes.

Cost: $150 pp

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