AUBURN — Emma and Sophie Wood know each chicken.
Daisy, after all, is scrappy. Stella likes to wander. Louise is the sweet one. Well, usually.
"She also knows when to take control," said Sophie, 13.
Most people probably wouldn't consider chickens as pets. But the Auburn sisters love their birds.
All eight of them.
"They're quite amusing, actually," Sophie said.
Even if they weren't a first choice.
"I wanted, like, goats or something," said 16-year-old Emma, an aspiring veterinarian. "But chickens seemed like a good compromise."
The sisters got Baac, Yolkie, Sunset, Poachy, Stella, Daisy, Thelma and Louise — two each from four breeds — as day-old chicks from the Paris Farmers Union a little over a year ago. They cared for the little balls of fluff inside until the birds were old enough to move into their chicken coop in the backyard. A month after the chickens arrived, they added newborn guinea fowl Clara and Annabelle to the mix.
The Wood family spent months researching the birds and how to best care for them. A year later, that interest hasn't waned.
"It's nice that we raised them from that little, because you can see the personalities that developed from when they were that young," Sophie said.
The girls' mom, Sharon, makes sure the coop is warm enough in the winter and cool enough in the summer. Their dad, Joe, lets the chickens into the fenced-in backyard to run before he goes to work in the morning. The girls do daily "chicken checks" to make sure the birds are healthy and protected against the elements. They all take turns feeding, watering and counting heads just in case someone (Stella) found a way under the fence and hightailed it into the nearby woods. Again.
"We found five eggs in those woods once," Sharon said.
Fellow chicken owners warned the family that it would probably lose at least one bird before the year was out, if not to illness then to a hungry predator. The family took such good care of the chickens — they've grown from little balls of fluff into sturdy, round birds with shiny feathers and contented clucks — that no one got sick. But the predator prediction almost came true.
A fox snatched one of the guinea fowl and was on its way to killing the bird when the family found it. The bird was nursed back to health and the family has tried to keep everyone behind the fence since.
However, the past year hasn't been without its loss. The family recently gave the two guinea fowl to another family because they thought Clara and Annabelle — renamed Clark and Adam because the guinea girls turned out to be guinea boys — were unhappy. Their new home, a farm, has other guinea fowl for companionship.
"It's nice to know they're in a good place where they can be wild," Sharon said. "They were running out into the road, chasing SUVs. We just really needed to be sure they were in a good home with space."
The move didn't pass quietly. Clark and Adam were given a farewell post on a Facebook page the girls had created over the summer as a kind of reality TV spoof: The Real Chickens of West Auburn.
Eventually, the girls might get more chickens after their original eight grow older and stop laying eggs. But they'll never get rid of Baac, Yolkie, Sunset, Poachy, Stella, Daisy, Thelma and Louise. The birds are part of the family.
"Joe and I have joked the chickens are probably coming to the nursing home with us," Sharon said. "If they're well taken care of, they can live like 17 years. So the girls will be long gone and we'll be sitting in a rocking chair with a chicken on our laps."
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