It’s not every day that an opportunity comes along to chat with someone who has a chicken on her head, but on a recent Friday afternoon, Raven stood squarely on top of Shelly McConnell’s noggin.
“Raven does what she wants, when she wants to do it,” McConnell said.
Raven, a black and gold chicken, rules the roost at The Backyard Horse, a tack shop at the corner of Little and DeKalb streets in downtown Camden.
Besides McConnell’s head, she sits on McConnell’s shoulder, saddles, countertops, a computer, a calculator, and if she feels like it, she’ll cozy up with a customer -- especially one who brings her bits of toast from the Broad Street Lunch just around the corner.
“Raven’s got her own little fan club,” McConnell said. “We’ve got one guy who brings food for her from the grill. He’s always got toast and she loves it.”
She called Raven a “Tractor Supply Special.”
“She’s fixing to be 5 years old in March. We got her when she was a day old from Tractor Supply. She’s half Game chicken and half Seabright. When my mama was alive, she wanted chickens. Yard chickens. So, we wound up with six of them, but Raven became a pet right away. She liked to be held and she got the most attention because she was the most agreeable,” McConnell said.
McConnell puts Raven in a cat carrier and brings her to the tack shop every day that the store is open -- Thursday through Saturday -- “unless she manages to get on top of the cabinets at home and I can’t get her down.”
Shortly after McConnell opens the store, she puts Raven’s breakfast -- a seed mixture -- on top of a glass cabinet. Raven eats, cleans her beak by rubbing it against an office chair, and then she goes to work.
“She greets customers,” McConnell said. “Everybody comes to see her. When they come through the door, they say, ‘I came to see Raven.’ She has a rhinestone necklace. Sometimes I can get it on her, and other times, she’ll be like, ‘No, not today.’”
Raven does not go outside and spends her late afternoons and evenings at home with the McConnell family -- including McConnell’s husband, Hap -- in the Lockhart community. She puts herself to bed promptly at 6:30 p.m., roosting on the end of McConnell’s bed.
“She just carries herself off to bed,” McConnell said.
Raven wears diapers at night.
“Chicken diapers,” McConnell said. “They just Velcro on.”
And Raven rules the roost at home, too.
“We have two dogs and several cats. She bosses the dogs around and will peck them on the nose if they get out of line. She’s got all the cats trained, except for one, and she’s working on that,” McConnell reported.
Raven even lays her eggs -- about one a day -- in the cats’ bed, and while not keeping the other McConnell critters in their places, Raven entertains herself by pulling Kleenex out of boxes.
“She likes to shred them,” McConnell said.
Raven also likes a certain parrot.
“Oso, the parrot, comes to visit us when his mother is out of town. Oso calls Raven -- ‘chick, chick, chick’ -- and Raven comes over to his cage and he feeds her sunflower seeds,” McConnell said.
While Raven’s claims to fame are many -- Tack Shop Mascot, Queen of the End of the Bed, Oso’s Girl, Kleenex Killer, Rhinestone Diva -- she also makes her feathered presence known at Southside Baptist Church.
“Raven goes to Bible Study on Friday nights,” McConnell said. “She sits on my shoulder the whole time and will not move. Everybody just loves her.”
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