It’s not quite a baby in a manger – but finding a young kiwi asleep in her chicken coop was the ultimate Christmas gift for a Far North woman.
Waipapa resident Jane Jackets was checking her animals a few mornings ago when she discovered an uninvited guest having a sleepover.
“I came down to the hen house to check the eggs and see that my girls were all right. I opened the door of the nesting box to find not only a chicken laying an egg, but a kiwi curled up fast asleep,” she said.
“I did a double take and put the door down, and lifted it up again just to check that I wasn’t seeing things. But sure enough, I was pretty certain it was a kiwi. I rushed up to the house to tell my husband to come and have a look, in case I was making it up.”
Jackets called the Department of Conservation’s hotline to find out the right thing to do – which was to leave the kiwi where it was, because the nocturnal bird was unlikely to go anywhere during daylight.
She said the kiwi spent the day dozing among her chooks, who took the intruder in their stride.
“They were completely unfazed. They didn’t go up to it or peck it or anything.”
The visitor woke up at one point and embarked on “a bit of an adventure”, making its way down a chicken tunnel to a second coop where it curled up for another nap.
Later in the day it wandered back to the comfort of the nesting box.
Jackets said it was a mystery how the kiwi got in.
The chickens had the run of the garden in the afternoons but at night, once they returned to the coop, the gate was firmly shut.
As advised by DOC, once it was dark and the chickens were asleep on their roosts, Jackets opened the gate and bade farewell to her visitor.
By morning the kiwi was nowhere to be seen.
“I truly can’t quite believe it happened. It was a privilege, and a wonderful Christmas gift. And nicer than that, it’s been nice to share it. The news at the moment can be a bit depressing. This is a bit of cheerful news that we can enjoy,” she said.
And that might not be the end of the story – on Tuesday evening, just after dark, Jackets was out in the garden when she spotted the kiwi again.
This time it was wandering around outside the henhouse, possibly comtemplating a return visit to its avian relatives.
Husband John Jackets said they knew there were kiwi living on the property, about 10km from Kerikeri.
In fact, an adult pair called to each other almost every night and had done so ever since the Jackets moved in 17 years ago.
Their property was not in a pest control area but it included a lot of native bush.
“It’s as natural a habitat as you can imagine,” he said.
It is not the first curious encounter someone has had with a kiwi in the Far North.
In 2019 a guest at the Copthorne Hotel, next to the Treaty Grounds, was woken by an intruder under his bed.
Hotel staff lifted up the bed and discovered a kiwi, which had wandered in through a ranchslider left open due to the heat.
They tried to usher the feathered visitor out the door but it ran into the bathroom instead, where it skidded around on the tiles before seeking refuge under the bed again and finally sprinting out into the night.
The Department of Conservation (DOC) said kiwi sightings were becoming more common in the Far North, thanks to the efforts of community groups carrying out intensive predator control.
Last year, Purerua Peninsula in the northern Bay of Islands recorded New Zealand’s highest-ever kiwi call count.
In areas without pest control, however, kiwi numbers continued to decline.
DOC urged people living in kiwi areas to keep cats and dogs under control by keeping them inside, leashed or in a kennel; to sign dogs up for kiwi avoidance training, or take part in Kiwi Coast’s kiwi awareness training for dog owners; and call 0800 DOC HOT to report any kiwi in trouble.