Where Berlusconi and his 14 playmates lose themselves, not a blade of grass grows anymore. So Eva Schiebel doesn’t need a lawn mower.
Berlusconi is not bling-bling, but a rooster. A dwarf rooster. Luckily for the neighborhood in this sleepy residential area in the west of Munich, it doesn’t have such a powerful voice – because it reliably crows two hours before sunrise. His playmates, unlike him nameless, are of the breed Appenzeller Spitzhauben, Marans, Italians, Sussex, Vorwerk (yes, like the vacuum cleaner), Italians. Also three “green layers” (i.e. laying green eggs) belong to the flock. There is a sign on the garden door saying “Please don’t open the door, no matter what the chickens say”. Nevertheless, some of them often escape, tiptoeing along the sidewalk one after the other, looking for worms, sometimes even causing astonished drivers to pull the wheel slightly. But they never run out into the street, says Eva Schiebel, and they come back to their coop of their own accord: “Where a chicken goes out in the morning, it goes back in at night.”
Keeping chickens in the city is in. What used to be cats, dogs and hamsters is now chickens for some. Around 600 poultry farms in the city area are reported to the district administration department, mostly hobby farms. However, the number also includes other poultry such as ducks, geese, pigeons, guinea fowl or turkeys. And, of course, the accessory industry is also following such a trend, from guidebooks and packaged food in some DIY stores to dwellings. A few years ago there was an exhibition in the Handwerk Gallery with particularly elegant housing for dogs, cats, guinea pigs and Co. designed by craftsmen and designers, including a “mobile city chicken house” made of brushed silver fir and stainless steel – for 4500 euros. “Chicken is hip” – that’s the title of a two-part program that will be broadcast on Bavarian television on Easter Saturday and a week later.
Who would have thought that you could train chickens to slalom?
Eva Schiebel didn’t jump on any fashion trends. As a child, she says, she had chickens, ducks, hamsters and other animals in Nymphenburg, which at the time was more rural than wealthy. And now she has chickens again, for ten years. The husband died, the son moved out, suddenly it was so quiet in the house, company was needed. “As trusting and clever as a dog,” she thought to herself, but she didn’t need as much attention and care as a dog, because she goes to work every day – home office was still a long way off. Smart chickens? Of course, the 60-year-old assures her and talks about a workshop she once attended. It was about animal training for film productions, clicker training was done – not with dogs, for which clickers are intended, but with chickens. “In the end, the slalom was able to run,” laughs Eva Schiebel.
Your chickens don’t have to slalom, don’t do tricks, they can just scratch, peck, bathe in sand and lay eggs. However, because they are thoroughbred chickens, not hybrid breeds, they don’t do this every day. When it’s too cold or too hot, it can happen that Eva Schiebel only finds three eggs in the laying nests. It is enough for their needs, even for small gestures of apology to neighbors whose flower beds one of their chickens has once again trashed, or for souvenirs when invited. And while professional chicken keepers exchange their hens after a good 15 months because the laying performance is declining, “my girls are allowed to retire,” says Schiebel, so they don’t end up in the soup pot, but die a natural death; a hen has turned seven years old.
“Chickens are prone to cannibalism.”
In the meantime, Eva Schiebel’s flock of chickens also has four hens who wanted to get rid of their previous owners. “Because it’s not as easy as some people think – I give food and water and get an egg every day – it’s just not.” For example, you have to thoroughly disinfect the barn in the spring so that the blood-sucking red mite doesn’t settle in. Have to be careful that the socialization works, one hen doesn’t rip out the feathers of another and everyone else then gets into a frenzy – “Unfortunately, chickens tend to cannibalism”. She finds it problematic to only keep two chickens, “because then one of them is always the idiot who gets everything”. And above all, you have to make sure that they are safe in the barn at dusk before foxes and martens go hunting; so you’re pretty attached. In Schiebel’s chicken coop, the door closes, controlled by a sensor, “so that I can sit in the beer garden longer in the evenings”. Nevertheless, she checks every evening to make sure everyone is inside: “The young ones aren’t that punctual yet.”
Incidentally, Berlusconi is not only there to occasionally mate with his hens – “that means ‘kicking’,” corrects Eva Schiebel immediately. He also looks after his girls – and vigorously ensures peace and order if they bitch too much. But otherwise he’s a very good guy, she assures me. Unlike his predecessor, a feather guy the size of a football, but aggressive, “better than any watchdog”, the terror of the garbage collectors. “And my boy,” remembers Eva Schiebel, “only got in with a snow shovel in front of his shin.”