Some people are surprised to learn that seventeen chickens live in Cheyenne Mountain Zoo’s My Big Backyard, where guests can also meet rabbits, koi fish, amphibians, insects, our honeybee colony, tarantulas, and more. The chickens are each named after famous chefs or tasty spices and all have unique personalities to match.
It’s not unusual to hear cooing chickens and guests giggling with delight, as they get the opportunity to meet these unique species of chicken up close and personal. Guests can interact with them during their daily “Chicken Parades,” when they run down the road from their chicken coop to their pen in My Big Backyard. Guests who would like to get even closer have the chance to do so for $1 during the chicken feeding experience. These interactions are available all day every day, when the weather is warm enough for these hearty chickens to be outside.
When they’re not on parade or connecting with guests, the chickens are training with their keepers. Here are a few fan favorites, and their current training efforts, to look for next time you visit My Big Backyard:
Rosemary is the flock’s only White Crested Black Polish chicken. Her fabulous frock of white feathers on the top of her head makes her easy to recognize. She may not be able to see very well because of the sheer volume of her feathery headdress, but she has phenomenal hearing and recognizes her lead trainer’s voice out of any crowd. Rosemary is trained to peck at a target, to jump onto hands and to turn around in a circle. People love Rosemary because of her funny head of feathers and her calm and outgoing demeanor. Rosemary is often one of the first chickens to attend off grounds ZOOMobile programs, as she doesn’t mind new surroundings as long as there is good food.
Martha Stewart is the CMZoo flock’s only Lakenvelder chicken. She has black feathers on her neck and tail, but her body feathers are white. Martha is a very eager eater, and you may see her running towards guests with food cups, or stealing tasty bugs from other chickens. Martha is learning how to tell the difference between colors. She is learning station training and target training. Keepers show Martha a blue paddle or a red paddle, and she walks to stand on a circle that is the same color as the paddle her keepers present. Most of the time Martha gets it right, but sometimes she gets really excited about her meal worm treats and forgets about the colors. Martha is also learning to go on ZOOMobile programs.
Guy Fieri is the newest addition to our chicken family. He is an Araucana rooster and lives in a side yard with Laredo, a Rio Grande turkey. Guy is a very “talkative” rooster. If you wait by his yard for a few minutes, you are almost guaranteed to hear him crow. Guy is settling in to the chicken family, approaching keepers and discovering which foods are his favorite. Guy is very mild mannered and spends his days exploring the yard and finding new areas to perch.
All the chickens in My Big Backyard have the option of staying in the yard and interacting with guests, taking a break in the side yard to just relax or maybe lay an egg, or flying out and exploring the Zoo on their own. If you see a chicken outside of the yard or coop, don’t worry. They are just exploring their spaces and looking for bugs to eat. They always come home to roost in their coop at night.