My Wife’s Introduction to Chook Tails

Chicken Nibbles is my second self-published book about chickens. My first, Chook Tails: Free Range Eggs, was self-published in 2007 and promptly fell off the perch.

I began drawing cartoons in 2004. I asked my wife, Erica, to write a Foreword for Chook Tails. This is what she wrote. Erica changed her name to Lachlan and she died in 2017. Chicken Nibbles is dedicated to her memory.

“It all started with three point-of-lay Langshan pullets, a small beginning which rapidly expanded into a teeming horde of 18 hens and two testosterone charged roosters.

Up until then, Alan was just an ordinary, unassuming bloke; trained as a kindergarten teacher, actually. (He seems to have a soft spot for small, destructive, uncontrollable creatures). He even did an accidental eight year stint in the Upper House of NSW Parliament as a (very) Independent Member, before they spotted their error and changed the rules.

These new chooks … well, how can I put it? They weren’t brought up nicely. Not nicely at all. In fact, between them they possessed almost every undesirable behavioural trait known to chicken-kind. They destroyed his wife’s precious garden; they woke up the household every morning two hours earlier than it would have preferred to be woken up; they turned the verandah into a smelly obstacle course; they ate his wife’s styrofoam seed-raising boxes; they followed him around and invaded his personal space; they displayed cupboard love to the unprecedented extent of regularly following him into the kitchen or strolling through the house unaccompanied to see what the peckings were.

It was when they started laying eggs on his bed (and yes, we have the photographic evidence) that something kind of snapped in Alan’s head and it all came flooding out. On paper. Lots of paper. A copy of which you are now holding in your hand and deciding whether or not to fork out the readies for, or sneak bits of for free when the shopkeeper’s back is turned.

But think carefully for a minute … if you do that, not only will you probably miss many of the best ones – you’ll also miss the opportunity to sit on your nice clean verandah and enjoy them in a relaxed fashion with a beer or a cuppa, share them with your significant other, ask chook-owning neighbours to explain the stranger bits, learn exciting things about chooks, leave the beautifully bound copy enticingly on the coffee table as a conversation piece … and, last but not least, use it as prime dunny reading. You won’t find better at the price. And you won’t feel guilty about grudging a measly few dollars for more than two years of blood (thanks to Nobby’s spurs), sweat (thanks to avian harassment) and tears (thanks to the loss of the garden).

Not to mention the cost of the feed and sundry items for the large and motley collection of fowls he has accumulated. And the price he paid for the artist’s training which he didn’t get.

When asked where most of his ideas come from, Alan just points to his head and says, “In there somewhere!” This is a source of concern for his wife, but to date he seems stable without medication.

No chooks were harmed during the writing and production of this book, at least not by Alan – although hundreds of young plants were unavoidably sacrificed due to chicken-wire fencing that is “definitely chook-proof now!”

When Alan’s not caring for his chooks, he’s caring for his invalid wife, Erica. She’s a passionate gardener, and doesn’t like chooks quite as much as her husband does. Her cunning attempt to lead him on to smaller and better things by purchasing a Lovebird, ostensibly for herself, failed miserably. But despite his ‘other women’, she still loves him … most of the time. She even took some of the photos.”