The Secret Life of Poultry: Chickens of Gondor

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Fanny Windeløv-Jensen is a chicken owner from Denmark with a fairly unique flock of hens, and any fellow Lord of the Rings (LOTR for short) fans are going to see why. The “hobbits” are named Merry, Pippin, Sam, and Frodo, and Fanny has an older hen, Shing, to rule them all. (If you know, you know.) She dresses herself and her hens up for LOTR photo shoots and the results look like they came straight from Middle-earth.

Getting an early start, Fanny grew up around chickens because her parents kept them. Her parents kept chickens for egg production, so she never took a huge interest in them. Always an animal lover, she had rabbits in her youth, but when they later passed away she turned towards the chickens. When she got The Hobbits, a little over two years ago, she began trying to train them.

Sam and Fanny

Fanny always named her chickens, so these ones weren’t any different. The coop is Gondor, the rest of the garden is Middle-earth, then there are The Hobbits. The Hobbits are four Lohmann Browns and Shing, The Queen of Gondor, is an unknown breed that Fanny hatched out in 2010.

Being a LOTR fan since she was ten, it seemed to be the natural progression that Fanny would begin naming the birds after characters. She didn’t originally plan to name them after the characters, but their personalities now happen to match up to their namesakes. “Pippin is really adventurous! She is brave and isn’t afraid of going away from the others,” Fanny explained. Pippin is smart and aloof but food motivated.

Frodo, Sam, Merry, Pippin, and Shing with Fanny

Merry is all about the snacks, and she does the most tricks. She wants to be involved in everything and gets jealous when the other Hobbits get attention. Sam is very shy, curious, and independent. ”She usually minds her own business but often comes running with Merry if there’s treats involved. She resembles the personality of the “real” Sam very well.”

Frodo is the hardest to characterize according to Fanny. She is brave and curious. She and Pippin will travel to the far reaches of the garden.

Shing, older than the Hobbits, is the Queen of them all. Her age shows a little but she still keeps up with the other girls and enjoys strolls through the garden. “I think of her as some kind of Aragorn,” Fanny said. “She’s the only chicken that I’ve had since hatching and therefore she’s really special to me.”

Shing, looking majestic and stately

Fanny was first introduced to LOTR when she was ten, and her obsession has only grown since then. It doesn’t influence her chicken keeping as much as it adds a little extra fun to the experience. “I really like watching the girls and thinking about how each of them fits their name, that way I am more observant of their actions. It always adds something extra to a conversation that they’re named after LOTR characters. The biggest influence that LOTR has is probably on my Instagram and I really enjoy taking funny photos with girls that are LOTR themed,” Fanny added.

The Hobbits don’t always approve of the costumes but they love the treats, and each time they grew more confident and less afraid of new things. Their leg bands are also LOTR-themed, inspired by the colors of waistcoats that the characters wear. Pippin’s is blue, Merry’s is yellow, Frodo’s is red, and Sam’s is green.

I spoke to Fanny about her fan. “In general, I just feel like the LOTR theme makes everything a bit more hilarious and it’s a good way to get a conversation started,” she told me. The photos where she cosplays with her hens on Instagram get a lot of interaction, and it is a place where lovers of both chickens and Tolkien unite.

Fanny with Merry

The Hobbits know a variety of chicken tricks, and different Hobbits are willing to do different tricks. They come when they’re called, even when they’re adventuring out in Middle-earth, they’ll fly up to Fanny’s hand, and of course, sit in costume for LOTR-themed photo shoots.

Fanny has some tried and true methods to help raise friendly chickens who are willing to learn tricks. It comes down to trust and familiarity. “Spend a lot of time with them. It doesn’t have to include anything special, but with the Hobbits, I just spent a lot of time sitting in the chicken run watching them so they could get used to me.”

Fanny with Pippin

It depends on the individual chicken and their tendency toward human interaction, but most of them are treat-driven. It takes a lot of time, dedication, and the use of healthy treats to prevent obesity and health problems.

Coming from the person who, as a child, owned a Dutch rabbit named Pippin, Fanny’s flock of Hobbits living in Middle-earth is some next-level chicken care. To follow the Hobbits or peek at her LOTR photo shoots, check out Fanny’s Instagram page under the handle chickens.of.gondor.

Originally published in the August/September 2021 issue of Backyard Poultry and regularly vetted for accuracy.

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