Talking rook and sex change chicken: bizarre birds from our archives

1973: Blackie the talking rook was rescued by Irene Blackwell as a fledging after falling out his nest in Sibsey.
1973: Blackie the talking rook was rescued by Irene Blackwell as a fledging after falling out his nest in Sibsey.

An unusual pet with an even more unusual human characteristic lived at the home of Maureen Blackman in Boston’s Spilsby road.

The bird became a part of the family and would sit on her shoulder, put its head against her cheek and say ‘Come on then, I’m going’ and ask where their cat Fluff was.

“He’s a very wise old bird and knows what I say to him,” said Mrs Blackwell. “He sits at the window and caws to people he knows as they walk by.”

Despite being domesticated,Blackie would still attempt to build a nest each year – using whatever bits and pieces he could find in the couple’s garden.

He was given baths in their garden and the kitchen sink, and given treats like boiled eggs and cucumber.

1943:

A hen that had been regularly laying eggs in a Boston back garden played a dirty trick in the days of egg rationings - by having a sex change.

It was owned by a Boston resident, who didn’t want to be named, but said the bird ceased to lay eggs, had grown a ‘comb’ and started harrassing the other hens.

But according to Kirton poultry instructor Charles Chaplin, a partical sex change in chickens was ‘perfectly possible’, although uncommon. He said: “It is really a freak.”

A Wigtoft soldier serving in India spoke of how he had the privelege to be a guest for the night at the palace of His Highness the Maharajah of Mysore, of the the world’s richest men.

Singlaman Walter Stephenson was part of a troop invited to stay at the palace, describing their stay as like something out of Arabian Nights, with diamond-clad elephants and a ropyal zoo - complete with an iced polar bear enclosure.