No, honey, you aren’t seeing things, that chicken really IS surfing

We all know the old joke that asks “why did the chicken cross the road” but in Ocean Grove, people want to know why the chicken went surfing.

Well, it is a fun summer holiday activity, even for hens.

If everybody had a notion: Elaine Janes and her surfing hen, Mrs Chook.Credit:Justin McManus

And local chicken fancier Elaine Janes believes it’s unfair to confine her pet chooks to a backyard pen.

They need to get out into the world, she reckons, and why not go surfing? And Mrs Chook, a Plymouth Rock breed hen, has been surfing at Ocean Grove main beach, sparking double-takes and some welcome laughs.

Ms Janes, 76, said when she retired as a motor trade saleswoman, she vowed to challenge herself and try new things, and she applies this to her chooks as well.

She’s taken a chicken skateboarding, canoeing on the Barwon River and riding on Geelong’s Giant Sky Wheel.

Ms Janes often takes Mrs Chook swimming in shallow waves at Ocean Grove beach and loves to sit with up to 10 chickens on a bench at Point Lonsdale, where people photograph and talk to them.

The birds are well known at the Groove Cafe in Ocean Grove, where they sip babyccinos.

Ms Janes says going out is good for the birds’ mental health. “It would be very boring, being a chook stuck in a yard.”

Jaw-drops and wide smiles are the common reactions from humans including surfer Lauren Taylor, 20, at the beach on Thursday.

“I was a bit startled. I did not expect to come down here at 8 o’clock in the morning and see a chicken surfing,” Ms Taylor said, and declared the hen “an absolutely great surfer”.

“Hopefully I can be as good as the chicken one day.”

Seeing Mrs Chook swimming, Scott Vildovas, 46, said the chicken seemed to enjoy it, but it was a “pretty mad” sight.

“I guess ducks and seagulls swim, but you’re used to seeing [hens] on farms laying eggs,” he said.

Is that a chook? Beachgoers quiz Elaine Janes, left, as her hen Mrs Chook dries off.Credit:Justin McManus

Ms Janes said only Mrs Chook has the desire, and sleek feathers, to swim. “From the look on her face, she loves it,” Ms Janes said. “She’s relaxed and contented.

“When I get her out of the water, I wrap her in a towel, like a baby, and she sits beside me while I put my socks and shoes on.”

The surfing started on December 11, aided by an instructor from Surf Sessions surfing school.

Ms Janes repeated the feat with the help of bemused passerby Ms Taylor on Thursday.

Now for coffee: Elaine Janes, left, with chooks at Groove Cafe, Ocean Grove.Credit:Justin McManus

Ms Janes said Mrs Chook “took to it like a duck to water”.

“She fears nothing because I think she knows she’s safe, it’s safe with me. If you put her there, that’s what she’ll do.”

She said chooks like being given a task, however “if they don’t like something, they’re not going to do it”.

Ms Janes, who goes to ballet class and volunteers at the Potato Shed theatre and writes stories for the Humans In Geelong website, said she has no family, so the chooks she owns are like children, and they go where she goes.

Elaine Janes’ hen Flapper riding a skateboard.Credit:Elaine Janes

Using eye contact, hand gestures and even touching her nose to their beaks, Ms Janes has trained them to “stay” if she pops into a shop, and to tolerate being patted.

She said they may play up at home, but in public, “they can be so well behaved and perfect angels”.

“I love my chooks,” she said. “And you can tell, they’re waiting to go out, thinking like ‘what are we doing next’?”

She’s says being called locally “the chook whisperer” makes her laugh and she loves that people come up to her to chat. “It does make people smile. It makes them feel happy, and I feel happy too, and so do the chooks.”

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