Not falling of the perch anytime soon

Mrs Chook, Bubsy and Squiggles. (Louisa Jones) 413538_03

Ocean Grove’s Elaine Janes, also known as the Chook Whisperer, has released her first book of short stories about her adventures and experiences with chooks. She speaks with Jena Carr about her love for the birds and what the book means to her.

Elaine Janes, 79, and her family of rescued chickens and roosters are well known among the Geelong and Ocean Grove communities.

The Ocean Grove woman started rescuing and rehoming the birds nearly 12 years ago and takes the chooks to cafes, beaches and parks.

Elaine said her goal to help and train them began with the first chicken she picked up off the road near her home. That chook was known as Flapper and was a mini-celebrity.

“She was lost, starving, and dehydrated, but she became the love of my life and feared nothing. It wouldn’t matter what ride you took her on or what you did, she was loving every minute,” Elaine said.

“No one will ever replace her, and when she went, I’ll be honest, I wanted to die because I wanted to be with her.

“I suppose you can say the universe looked after me. I pulled myself together and decided to give other chooks a life.

“My number one chook, where all this started from, I always tell her that whoever’s on the way will cross the rainbow bridge and that my first chook has to welcome the new one.

“It is sad when they go; it’s heartbreaking, but one goes, and another comes along…roosters do not live as long as chooks; when you’ve won a rooster’s heart, you’ve won it forever.

“Even with roosters where they’re so wild, some of them could rip you to pieces if they wanted to, but watching the transformation to becoming happy is great.”

Elaine used to train dogs before chickens and roosters but said she used a similar trick for both, which involved hand signals and eye contact.

“I feel the universe will always look after us. Chooks give you a purpose, someone to love and they keep you busy,” she said.

“I give a chook a five-minute lesson and keep that up for a week or two and then stop it for a week before coming back to it again.

“They’ve all got different personalities, and when you’ve got someone with a strong personality, you’ve got to work out what you can teach it.

“Chooks have a good memory, and they know where to find things too…if you want to teach them something individually you need to have five-minute lessons.”

Elaine said her chickens can be naughty, not waiting for her to put food down or learning how to open a gate.

“They won’t do what you want them to do, they’ll do what they want to do right and just be naughty,” she said.

“If you’ve got a chook that will not look you in the eye, and I’ve got a couple of them, you know they’re going to be naughty.

“They’ll fly at me and even at the jug, so they knock it out of your hands, and the whole lot goes in one place instead of four different areas.

“They worked out how to open one gate. I have eight fairly strong magnetic catches that, rather than opening and closing, I can push it and it magnetically closes.

“They worked out while having a committee meeting that if six of them line up against the door and all push at the same time, guess what, the door comes open.”

Elaine has one chicken she takes surfing and said you cannot force a chicken or rooster to love the water.

“I feel this particular one is reincarnated because there’s got to be somebody up there that wants to feel the power of the ocean waves,” she said.

“When I take her, I take her alone because then she has 100 per cent of my focus. Undertow can take her sideways, and then I’ve got to start running.

“She will not voluntarily come out of the water. I know when she’s used enough energy, and she knows she’s ready to go, but she won’t come out on her own.”

With the release of her new illustrated book Under My Wing, Elaine shares stories that she has with her chickens and roosters, which people of all ages can enjoy.

“I’m just very thankful to Janet Brown (publisher), who made a phone call to me asking me to do this and I had so many stories, but I’ve never done anything with them,” she said.

“It’s taken nine months to get it all together…and I have been told that I am leaving something behind when I go, which is the book, and that will be around forever.

“It can be quite sad when I think about all the things I’ve done with roosters, I love them in a different way to chooks. It’s an achievement, but it’s also good to be able to share feelings with other people.”

Besides rescuing chickens and writing stories, Elaine volunteers, knits, takes ballet and karate lessons and is a retired weightlifting champion.

“I don’t like people putting me down like I’m too old, as I’m very active…I’m 79, but I’m not planning on falling off the perch,” she said.

“My relaxation time is knitting, and I’m helping a young girl knit this little leopard, and she is loving it. It’s rewarding when you finish an item, especially when you give it away.

“I think I better start knitting some more chook jumpers, as they’ve all got football jumpers and I only ever use them if Geelong has been in the grand final.”