Michael Mobbs with Bob, in happier times

By Michael Mobbs

14 September 2011 – It was the “cheep” that did it.


Almost inaudible.

And the vet’s question, too.

That did it.

“Has it been vaccinated for Marek’s disease?”

Little things like that.

Changed my mind, well, about chooks, at least.

And now I’m even more bamboozled by this thing called ‘food’.

The whole experience has been . .  . weird.

Let’s go from the start.

Last Friday I took my sick chook, Bert, to the specialist vet.  They did birds, mainly.  Exotics, too. Snakes, spiders.

Hell, what do you say when you take a crook spider to the vet: “It’s gone off it’s food and not biting like it should”.

Never been there before.  Never had a sick chook before.

The vet felt Bert’s tummy.  Lumps everywhere.  Cancer.

Had to put her down.

Funny feeling, coming home with an empty cage.

Her mate, Bob, called out straight away when I walked into the house.  Not to me, to Bert. But Bert wasn’t there.

She knew.  Never heard her call like that before.

So next day, Greg, who owns a ute and has got a soft spot for chooks, too, drove me out to Luddenham, somewhere exotic in its own way, too, to a hatchery.

That’s where I got “cheep”.  Two of em, one white, one black.  About 16 weeks old.  No crop, no squark and very timid.

Well, when we got back with “cheep”  times two, Bob went bananas.

Ran right over black “cheep”.

Flattened her.

So she’s been limping ever since.

I got my mate, The Chook Whisperer, over.

She was clear.

“She has to go to the vet”.

“Cheep” wasn’t cheap any more.

The hatchery had said if the leg’s broken bring her back and they’ll give me another one.

But the Chook Whisperer wasn’t having any of that.


Anyway, back to it.

What’s been getting me is this.

There’s the little life that they are, first of all.  This vulnerable little thing, still scrawny and unformed but a life, after all, in my care.

And it has to have a vaccination.  For some disease I’ve never heard of that’ll apparently spread like wild fire and kill chooks by the droves.  (What do you call a bunch of chooks? A herd? A flock? Expensive?)

I’ve been thinking of the thousands and thousands of chooks getting vaccinated.  Otherwise they get this disease or that and it spreads through the thousands of them bunched up together in their cages.  How do they do that?  Probably just put it in their food.

And we – me – eat chook.

Fair enough, I suppose.  Who knows.  Anyway, that’s not what I’m talking about.

This is it.

There’s as much to keeping a chook alive as me, or any other one of us.

Chooks, humans.  We all get viruses, we all need our shots.

Millions of us.  Millions of them.

Sometimes, like now, the enormity of the enterprise that’s going on here brings me to silence.

How we’re all just little “cheeps”.  How it takes so much to keep each thing alive.

How vulnerable we are.

Michael Mobbs*  is a sustainability coach and author (of Sustainable House now in its second edition) who advises, teaches and speaks on sustainability issues. He works with developers, governments and communities to design and obtain approvals for houses, units and subdivisions. He is based in the inner Sydney suburb of Chippendale, where in 1996 he pioneered the conversion of his inner city terrace into a sustainable house, which has now been disconnected to mains water and sewerage and is powered by solar energy. See www.sustainablehouse.com.au

Michael Mobbs will speak about his sustainable house on Saturday 17 September at  3pm at Gleebooks, Dulwich Hill, Sydney, Ph:(02)   8080 0098,  $10, Bookings essential