Jayce Ho wants you to know that chickens are cuddly and smart pets.
Like many pet owners in Singapore, Jayce Ho owns a dog. But unlike many other pet owners in Singapore, Jayce is also the proud owner of one duck, one chick, and seven chickens.
The business development manager in her early thirties has been taking care of chickens since she was four years old.
“We always love having them around the backyard as it just makes us feel so blissful to be surrounded by nature,” she said.
Jayce took a break from rearing chickens after her earlier batch of chickens died of old age, but her family decided to start keeping chickens again in 2019.
She got some eggs from a friend and incubated them. A year later, her very own chickens – which she affectionately nicknames “Chick Chick” – had grown up and were regularly laying eggs for her.
She also runs the Instagram account @sgpolishchicken, where she documents the adventures of her cuddly pet chickens.
Although Jayce’s seven chickens roam about freely in her garden, they have never attempted to fly out and escape before.
“Once you establish a connection with them and you spend more time together, they don’t fly or run out of the house. In fact, they’re always escaping and running into the house to find us,” she said.
Jayce’s “secret” to forming a bond with her chickens is simple: spending time with them.
When they are chicks, she can spend three to four hours with them, even leaving them on her shoulder as she does gentle housework.
She recounted an experience when she was driving to work with a chicken, and suddenly felt something warm on her lap.
Jayce lifted the chicken to see that it had laid a fresh egg on her legs – something it only did as it was comfortable around her and trusted her.
When she brings a chicken out, people often mistake it for a cat or soft toy. Some would approach her and share that they were chased or attacked by roosters when they were younger, but never realised they could be so affectionate.
Younger children would also be fascinated to see a chicken for the first time, but her favourite reactions come from the elderly in Singapore.
She said: “When the elderly see me, it’s so sweet because it refreshes their childhood memories. They’re always like: ‘I haven’t seen a chicken in so long!’.
“The ah mas will get so happy and will cuddle the chickens. You can see the twinkle in their eyes.”
Once, she even received a thank-you message from someone’s granddaughter, saying that her grandmother was so happy to see the chickens that she talked about them for the whole day.
Other than bringing them out, Jayce also spends time with her chickens by cuddling them.
One of her chickens even gets jealous, grumbling and pecking when she cuddles other chickens.
“I never expected chickens to be so affectionate, but they can be so cuddly and sweet,” she said.
Jayce doesn’t just cuddle her chickens because they are cute – she also does it to check for any health issues.
She said: “Chickens hide their illnesses really well. Even as I’m cuddling this chick now, I’ll check if there are any mites, feather problems or balding issues.”
Once, she noticed something was wrong with a hen after observing its posture, behaviour and appetite. It turned out that an egg had gotten stuck in the hen and broke.
The vet fees cost over $700, a hefty sum she was willing to pay.
“The money is a small thing because she’s the most manja (clingy) girl here. We really want her to be healthy,” she said.
However, not every chicken is as manja as Jayce’s “$700 girl”.
She has a sweet, cuddly chick that grew up to be an aggressive rooster. Although she was patient and loving with that rooster, it still pecks and injures her.
“The rooster is only aggressive to me. He probably treats me as another rival rooster,” she said.
Still, she never blames it for being aggressive, and never considers abandoning it. In fact, she feels strongly about the rise in pet abandonment cases in Singapore, and runs a website with infographics and listicles regarding the care of chickens to educate people on the commitment required in raising chickens.
As Jayce already had some experience taking care of chickens from when she was four to eight years old, she was well aware of the responsibilities that came with owning pet chickens.
Even then, making the decision to start raising chickens again in 2019 was not an easy one.
Most people assume chickens are easy to care for since they roam about in the wild, but Jayce’s family knew otherwise.
After a year of discussion, they finally decided to sacrifice some of their time to raise chickens again. Knowing they wouldn’t be able to travel after adding these new members to the family, they took a trip to Japan.
She hasn’t been overseas with her family since.
Jayce also emphasised the importance of having enough land for the chickens to forage and scratch, as well as putting in extensive research before getting them.
She said: “When you want to start keeping chickens, make sure that you do research, check with your family, are willing to put in time and commitment, and be responsible. You don’t want to abandon them at all.
“A chicken is a life. They’re affectionate, smart and lovely animals, just like dogs.”
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