Animals can teach us a thing or two about getting along with those different to ourselves.

Best friends: cat and chicken

Jasper is my eight-year-old cat who’s been friends with my Serama cockerel Orlando for the last three years. Orlando’s breed is from Malaysia and Seramas are the smallest chickens in the world. I keep Orlando with two Serama hens but also keep a variety of chicken breeds outdoors, all as pets, including hens rescued from cages. I am a copywriter and was inspired by my experience with, and love of, pet chickens to write my Chickens As Pets book giving people the information they need to look after these wonderful intelligent birds. They are loving to those who love them, learn their own names, enjoy cuddles, and make excellent family pets but need to be in flocks of three as a minimum. Even tiny Seramas lay eggs we can eat.

Jasper has always had a chicken friend. Roxy was a bantam Poland (Polish in the US) and she used to ride Jasper like he was a horse. He didn’t mind. She had epilepsy, treated by the vet, but it meant she couldn’t live outside and her life was short but happy. When she passed away Jasper was distraught with grief.

Cats generally get along just fine with chickens but it’s best not to put temptation their way with tiny vulnerable chicks. I have two other cats who are just as chill around chooks, and all three felines have their dinner in the company of my elderly Orpington hen, Daisy. Daisy had a stroke in June 2016 that left her unable to walk or balance. She had physiotherapy every day to keep her muscles from weakening, and was encouraged by me to try walking with support. It wasn’t easy and it took three months, but Daisy has made a full recovery.

I don’t eat meat or fish, and to me the idea of eating chickens – knowing how clever and social they are – is as horrible as eating cats and dogs is in Western cultures. I never judge others, though, and only ask that those who eat meat buy local and naturally reared because factory farming is cruel – bad for the animals, bad for the planet and bad for people too.

Roxy & Jasper

Roxy was by far my most eccentric hen. She kept stealing sips from my mum’s cups of chamomile tea. In the end, my mum gave her a cup of her own whenever she brewed up.

Hens are insatiably curious

Ex-battery (or ex-caged) hens are among the most intelligent chickens. They endure 12-18 months in small cages before going to be ‘processed’. Only a small number are saved and get a taste of freedom and natural living.