The unusual story of Shelly

Sally Keegan

Zac Stafford and his wife became nomads in 2015 and have been travelling the world since. Here, Zac shares his beautifully written story which will send you on a chicken fueled emotional rollercoaster. 

"This story starts, unlike any story I’ve ever told. This story starts with me in a shower with a chicken. Now I don’t want you to get the wrong idea – it’s not like that at all. We weren’t bathing. Well, we weren’t both bathing. She was, but I wasn’t. I had my clothes on and she, like all chickens, was naked.

Let me explain. We were house sitting for three months for an English woman who was travelling to Spain to escape the grey and rainy winters of Brittany, France.

She told us the weather was terrible – all sideways rain and bitter cold. She told us we got the house sit because we lived in Minnesota for years, and knew that Brittany in January would feel like spring to us. What she didn’t tell us was what none of us knew upon accepting the house sit: that I would wind up fully clothed in a shower. With a chicken.

A sick chicken at that.

You see, when chickens don’t get enough calcium, their eggs soften. And soft eggs are likely to break or get stuck.

A broken egg can cause a deadly infection. A chicken can become “egg bound” when the egg is literally stuck inside the chicken, which is quite dangerous. This is what happened to the chicken we came to call Shelly. The soft egg needed to come out without breaking.

I will spare you the details of exactly how an egg becomes “unbound”, but I will tell you that it sounds a bit like an old joke involving a rubber glove.

Once that was taken care of, we needed to keep her warm and quarantined for a decent period as chickens take brutal advantage of any weakness in their peers. At least that is what we learned after consulting with dozens of blogs and forums.

I took her to the small shower and tried to keep her warm while my wife prepared Shelly’s bed for the night – a plastic dog kennel lined comfortably with straw next to an electric heater.

This is how I found myself in the shower with a chicken. Not just any chicken. With Shelly.

I crouched there next to her in my wellies and rain jacket and tried to keep her little body still. She shivered and struggled mightily against my hand, which was spanning her back and holding down her wings.

I whispered her new name over and over again. Her eyes began to close as she relaxed and became sleepy. My legs became numb and also fell asleep. It’s one of the tenderest moments I’ve had on a house sit, and it changed me in a fundamental way I still can’t explain. There is something about naming a creature that takes it from being just another farm animal to being a pet, and it was in that moment in the shower, somewhere between the bar of soap and the bottles of shampoo and conditioner that she transformed from a chicken to a being .I know many among you will argue that she was a being all along, and I can’t agree with you more. But it was in that moment, with me chanting her name like a prayer, the shower dripping in time that I actually felt her being.

We kept her in the warm bathroom for a few nights until we knew she was healthy enough to join the others.

When we reintroduced her to the group we learned that Shelly had been at the top of the pecking order. Her absence had disrupted the delicate social structure of the 22 chickens we were sitting for that uncommonly cold winter in Brittany.

She had her work cut out. She had to defend herself from the other chickens that shunned her and fight for food all while recovering her health. It was a slow journey back to the top, but she made it eventually.

This is why we house sit. It’s not because of the free accommodations. It’s not the exotic locations, although we’ve had our fair share of those in the last 3 years. It’s not the wonderful homeowners we’ve met either. It really and truly is the little beings we are entrusted with. It’s Shelly and the countless other animals you’ll find on this site just waiting to be showered with love.


Zac Stafford and his wife became nomads in 2015 and have been travelling the world since. They’ve house sat in Israel, Italy, England, France, Scotland, Korea, Taiwan and their native United States and are looking forward to housesitting in Norway and Sweden this summer. They write about their experiences on their travel blog

If Zac and his wife look like the perfect sitters for you, check out their profile here, and if you have a story you'd love to share, please drop us an email

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