Welcoming a new flock of chickens into the family was an exciting time back in March 2021, and equally as exciting was choosing their names. This was our first venture into keeping heritage chooks, and fancy chooks deserve fancy names, right? My brain went to ‘fancy Nancy’, and at that moment the idea of ‘let’s name all of the chickens after ancestors’ was born – why the heck not?
I thought it would be fun to introduce our beautiful flock in a photo shoot of the ladies with their namesakes. Yep, perhaps I am a little on the ‘crazy chicken lady’ spectrum, but all in the name of Chicken Art!
To start the ball rolling I would like to introduce to you Nancy the Barnevelder, and some musings about her namesake Nancy.
Nancy and the Barnevelder
Aaah Nancy. My Gran. What a woman! She rode this bike everywhere back in the day and had quads of steel! She was beautiful. A talented singer and drawer, she helped Grandpa build the family home, was a mother of 4 and against the norm worked full time back in the 60’s with a young family. Nancy was an awesome cook too - always nailed a sponge cake with passionfruit icing, and Christmas roast dinners followed by plum pudding were the best, even if it was 40 degrees on Christmas Day! When I’m spending time with Nancy the chook, I remember fondly the long chats on the phone with Gran, especially the funny ones where her filter fell off.
I love that although Gran lost her vision, she always maintained her dignity. She dressed immaculately and if a visitor was popping over, at the age of 92, she still put on jewellery and a bit of lippy.
The second family member of our flock, and the second of two Barnevelder ladies is ‘Ronnie’. Named after my dear Grandpa, Ron.
Ron and our second Barnevelder 'Ronnie'
Grandpa was one of my heroes. He was so funny, kind and loving. I always felt incredibly safe with a big hug from him. I loved the stories of his travels and he taught us how to make the best paper aeroplanes ever. Also creative, he would tinker away in the shed and produce the most beautiful wooden furniture, and in my eyes, one of his best ever pieces were a pair of stilts he knocked up for me in grade 5. Boy was I popular at school the day I brought those in - everyone wanted a turn! I’m still amazed there were no casualties even though we were using them on the roughest asphalt, and everyone had a ball. Growing up in the 1980’s was awesome!
Grandpa was smart too. If there was something he didn’t know or understand, he was straight over to the Encyclopaedia Britannica’s, remember those?
I often wonder what Grandpa would have thought about technology, especially Siri who can look up anything for us, and Google - I think it would have blown his mind!
When spending time with Ronnie the chicken, and I think of Grandpa I am reminded on a daily basis to have fun, be kind and loving, value learning and remain curious.
The next introduction and musings centre around one of our Plymouth Rock Chickens - Dotti. This lady is named after my dear old Nanna Dorothy, and the reason will become apparent when I introduce Norma.
'Dotti' the Plymouth Rock with her namesake Dorothy
Dotti and Norma are self-appointed top of the pecking order who still don’t mind giving a reminder peck to the younger hens in the Palace every now and again. Complete opposite behaviour to her namesake Dorothy - who would not harm a fly!!
Nanna was a tiny little Dot, and it was always an exciting time when one of the grand kids were ‘catching up’ to her ‘height’. In my eyes being as tall as Nanna meant you were an adult, even at 10 years old ha! ha!
On visits with Nanna, we would always have a ‘cuppa tea and a biccy’ and we were always eager to see if the lolly jar was full, which of course it always was!
I remember feeling truly loved by Nanna and always felt excited when we were going to visit her. Thinking of Nanna and her smile, I am reminded of the beautiful quote by Maya Angelou ‘People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel’. And having a chicken who I visit every day, I’m reminded of that wonderful way of ‘being’.
I love this photo of Nanna in her youth, and thought a picnic setting with a cool car, cups of tea and Nanna holding a ‘biccy’ was the perfect scene for introducing Dotti.
Norm and our second Plymouth Rock 'Norma'
Norm was my Pop, and he was a one-eyed Collingwood supporter - so it seemed only right that a Plymouth Rock Chicken be named after him. And so I introduce to you the partner in crime with Dotti, lovely ‘Norma’.
Pop was always so proud that his grandkids grew up barracking for his beloved Collingwood too… but at nine years old, I broke away and supported another team. This was shocking to Pop, and hilarious at the same time and I hope that wherever he is now, that he sees having a black and white chicken named after him the funniest way I could make amends!
Pop was always making us laugh, and when we were little, a stand out memory would have to be when he was chasing us around the house with his false teeth! When he took them out, we just couldn’t work out why our teeth couldn’t do that too, no matter how hard we tried! Which only made everyone crack up laughing!!
I remember school holiday sleepovers too, and much like Norma, Pop would be up at the crack of dawn and always whistling a happy tune. I remember Pop as a happy go lucky and funny man. I am sure there were challenges in his life, but the thing that I admire the most and think about with Pop, is that he chose to be happy and funny regardless.
'Lillian' the Gold laced Wyandotte with her namesake Lillian
The Gold Laced Wyandotte is a beautiful and very sweet, motherly chicken, and from the stories I have heard about her namesake ‘Lillian’, this is the perfect heritage chicken tribute to one of my Great Grandmothers.
Lillian was Ron’s mum.
I am writing here about a lady who I have never met, but can write about from the perspective and power of stories and interpretation. Every family member who has spoken of Lillian over the years had nothing but love and adoration for her, mainly because no matter what - she was always loving, sweet and incredibly kind.
I can only imagine what it must have been like growing up in the early 1900’s, and life as a young woman - getting married, moving from England to Australia, supporting her husband returning from World War I, and going on to raise a family through the Great Depression.
While we can never compare life back then, to life now, we can be informed by the past.
Like life in modern times, there are challenges to face at some point that require us to keep moving forward, that’s all a part of being human don’t you think?
The stories of Lillian have shown me, how with love, and a belief that she could - there was always a way through to having a wonderful life, and while that may not have been easy, it was always possible.
'Frankie' the Gold laced Wyandotte with Frank and baby Ron
‘Frankie’ our other Gold Laced Wyandotte is named after my Great Grandfather ‘Frank’ (Grandpa Ron’s Dad, and Lillian’s husband).
Frank married at a young age, left soon after to serve in World War I, returned to his beloved Lillian and they started their family in 1922. WOW!
Seeing Frankie in the Palace, I think of gratitude.
Returning from a war zone and resuming life as it was before is unimaginable. I will never know exactly how the war did or did not affect Frank, and can only be grateful that he chose to ‘be’ a loving man who adored his family, his children and his Grandchildren. How different our family story could have been if Frank chose to live in anger and resentment - it would have undoubtedly carried on down the line, but he chose love.
I am reminded that the way we choose to ‘be’ as a person, can influence the lives of family we’ll never even meet, and that is what inspires me to keep learning, keep growing and live from a place of love too.
'Jeanie' the Olive Egger with Jean
Jean was Nancy’s Mum, and is honoured in the Chicken palace with my favourite little Chicken ‘Jeanie’.
My Great Grandmother Jean’s life was a hard life. Very Victorian in the way that expectations of women back then were to get married, have children, keep a successful household and remain proper. With four young children and married to a man who was less than ‘stellar’ shall we say - she was the family’s sole bread winner including throughout the Great Depression.
Jean was an incredible seamstress. Legend says, that people would come to Jean with basic plaid material, and she would spend hours upon hours working her magic and turn nothing, into garments that were something truly exceptional. She was talented at anything she turned her hand to, including oil painting.
Conditioned to be stoic, Jean didn’t show love in the conventional way of my other ancestors, as her environment had never really modelled affection. Her way of showing love was by making people things and being of service to the people she loved. And that is how people knew she cared for them. Jean’s tenacity and strength was greatly admired by Nancy, and are traits that have definitely been passed down the line of women in my family.
When I would hang out with Jeanie in the Palace coop and think of Jean, I’d think of love and acceptance. If someone doesn’t show love in a way that we are accustomed to, it doesn’t mean we are not loved. Jean is an example to me that people express love the only way they know how and that we all have love within us.
'Joyce' at the window that inspired the Chicken Palace
An array of egg colours from the girls, including a vivid blue egg from 'Joyce'
The beautiful heritage ladies introduced to you so far, apart from Jeanie, were our original hand reared chicks from March 2021. The vision I always had was to keep Chicken breeds that produce varieties of beautiful coloured eggs, and Araucana’s had been at the top of my wish list for many years.
Building the Palace in 2021, was inspired by a window sourced from the local salvage yard with blue and green glass - representing the abundance of coloured eggs and chicken life to follow.
Taking on board the advice of Stephen Covey ‘Begin with the end in mind’ my dream of building a Chicken Palace and keeping a flock of gorgeous Heritage ladies has come to life!
This image is of the window that started our ‘Chicken Life’ ball rolling, and Joyce the Araucana. Joyce, who is named after my Pop’s sister, joined the flock in October 2021, and laid her first gorgeous blue egg in December. She is the sweetest little lady and a robust layer, who generously kept us in supply over most of Winter 2022.
And while the eggs are wonderful, this adventure is about so much more than that. This is a celebration that you can have a thought, or an idea, and out of seemingly nothing, you can create something truly amazing for your life, and share it with others.
Hilda (Speckled Sussex - top right), Wynn (Lavender Sussex - middle) & Lynley (Dorking - bottom)
Hilda, Lynley and Wynn arrived at the chicken Palace in April 2022 on a day where I could have sworn we only needed grain and bedding straw from the Fodder Store! Thankfully I did some quick chicken maths and worked out that we could definitely bring them home - in the carrier I happened to have in the car for 'in case of emergency purchase'.
These glorious heritage ladies (who have all laid their first egg this week), are honouring three amazing women from my partner Bob’s side of the family. Bob’s parents are a big part of our chicken fun and were tickled pink that these ladies were named after their dear Mother’s and a favourite Aunty.
Sending over veggie scraps, keeping up to date with the Palace build news when it was taking place last year, and also having a link to our ’Chicken Cam’ set up in the run and the main house, are all ways Bob’s parents have shared in the chicken shenanigans with us.
We truly love being able to share some eggs when the ladies are a layin’ too.
Sharing a dream with people you love - and then seeing the happiness ripple effect of something so sweet and simple, sure does bring about a lot of joy. And what a lovely place to live from.
'Sarah' the Araucana chicken
Now the last introduction of our heritage ladies (for now) and by no means the least is going to sound weird. You see, the name of this little lady is … Sarah!
Please, please there is a story here and it’s not what you think!
Speaking to my Dad a while ago when choosing a name for this fine Araucana, I was asking about the ladies of our family on his side.
‘What was Pop’s Mum's name?’ I asked. And to my surprise, he said ‘Sarah’. Naturally I then asked ‘Wow, I didn’t know that, so was I named after her?’
Dad’s response was this.
‘No, your name was actually going to be Sasha, but the week before you were born, a guy at work bought a dog and called it Sasha, and so we changed your name to the next closest name - Sarah’ (so many emotions! ha ha!)
There you have it, I definitely have not named a chicken after myself - still a Crazy Chicken Lady though, and am simply honouring my Dad’s grandmother ‘Sarah’. I will say that it is still a little strange saying ‘Good morning Sarah’ when I’m up in the coop, and still have a little giggle about it every time.
I don’t know too much about some ancestors on Dad’s side of the family, but that’s ok. I’ve learnt in life we don’t have to know everything all at once and have it all figured out. It’s fun to find out random stories and information along the way, even when this ends up meaning you have a chicken with the same name as you!!
I have thoroughly enjoyed introducing our little flock of heritage ladies, and their namesakes, my ancestors. I hope you have enjoyed the musings too.
More chicken shenanigans to come, including recipes that use eggs because I love creating in the kitchen too!!