If you’ve visited the Zoo, you’ve likely met a lot of our more than 900 animal residents. Some animals are easy to spot, but others are often not as easy to see because of their habitat set up, their personalities or their sleep cycles among other things. We wanted to start a “Meet the Animals” section of our blog to introduce you to some of the residents that you may (or may not have) met yet!
This month’s feature is all about our flock of chickens! Our five hens live in the Barnyard area of our Paws On loop. One is named CJ, short for Chicken Junior, while our other four are sisters with names inspired by Beatrix Potter characters – Jemima Puddleduck, Mrs. Tiggywinkle, Kitty in Boots, and Roly Poly Pudding.
You may be surprised to know that our chickens are actually Animal Ambassadors! They have the option to participate in a multitude of educational programs. They are trained to go into a crate and will go to our indoor classrooms, outside the Paws on Loop for chats, and even onto our stage. All chickens have preferences for where they like to train and what they will train for.
While they get along fairly well as a unit, there is a hierarchy amongst the group, which is normal for chickens. Here’s how our Animal Ambassador care team described each of them:
Tiggy is the leader of the flock, and she takes her job seriously. She is the first to check out new things and ensure the Barnyard is safe for the rest of the flock. As the best hunter, Tiggy is known to even catch geckos! She will occasionally peck at keepers’ pants to be picked up and held.
Boots is second in command, sticking close to Tiggy to make sure everything is ok. She is also the most likely to try to go dig in the dirt behind The Barnyard for bugs.
Jemima is the most impatient chicken – especially when food is involved! She will push to the front of the flock for food. It makes her very motivated for training, but this is not always the best for keeper hand health!
Pudding is the most timid member of our flock, so she is usually last to check out new things. When the others are in group training, she hangs around the edges. Her timid nature leads her to not always be the most motivated when it comes to training, but we have been working with her a lot lately and see her confidence growing.
CJ is a bit of a loner in the flock and opts to remain off to the side doing her own thing. She was introduced to the flock later than the others, which could be why. She is also the one who likes human interaction the most, especially if it is someone she knows well as she will often jump into their lap and cuddle into their arm.
In their Barnyard home, our flock also shares space with Sahara the African spurred tortoise; our four goats Charm, Pebbles, Puff and Trix; and our two new bloodhound puppies, Cindy Pawford and Sarah Jessica Barker. The chickens get along fine with the goats and Sahara – even stealing food from Sahara’s mouth. The flock is still getting to know the pups, which is a top priority for their animal care team.
Our flock is fed chicken feed every day as well as kale. They also get fresh peas and corn, mealworms, and chicken scratch, which is mostly dried corn and seeds. They love hard boiled eggs, crickets, or superworms for enrichment throughout the week. The hens enjoy any type of enrichment involving food. Digging for food is a natural behavior for them, so mealworms and veggies hidden in sandcastles is a big draw. They can knock down and dig for their treats!
While they lay eggs occasionally, all of our chickens are older (between 4-5 years old) so their egg laying has decreased. As chickens age, they can develop reproductive problems associated with egg laying, so this is something their animal care team monitors closely. When we had more eggs, we would bring them to the commissary, where they would be given to other animals at the Zoo that regularly get egg in their diet. We do not have a rooster at our Zoo, so the eggs are unfertilized.
After a day of checking out guests in the Barnyard and doing chicken things, our flock typically puts themselves to bed in one of two coops in the Barnyard. They actually have preferred coops and roommates! CJ and Jemima are roommates, while Tiggy, Boots, and Pudding sleep in the other coop.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this introduction to our chicken flock, and that this new knowledge will help you enjoy them even more when you spot them in their Barnyard home!
Brevard Zoo is an independent, not-for-profit organization that receives no recurring government funding for our operating costs. Your generous support enables us to continue to serve our community and continue our vital animal wellness, education and conservation programs.