Monday, 13 April 2009

Leaving Chickens

For the bank holiday weekend, we decided to visit my family. We don't get to see each other that much, and I really miss them all, but leaving home also has consequences. When you have really spoiled hens, who are used to free ranging and being fussed over daily, it feels horribly cruel to leave them locked up for days.

I fretted and ummed and ahhed about asking the neighbour to pop in and keep an eye on them. However, as the ever tolerant husband pointed out, that would mean leaving the side gate unlocked and unbolted. Hmmm. So, it was a toss up between leaving them at the mercy of the two legged fox (the fabled chicken rustler), or just leaving them to it. Hubby finally bundled me out of the door after I checked the locks/drinker/feeder for the umpteenth time, and we headed down soth to visit the human members of the family.

We had a lovely time, and only stayed for one night. I didn't spend the whole time worrying about the girls, but a considerable amount of it. Hideous scenarios of chicken annhialation played on my mind. What if it got really hot, and Maeve would be slowly cooked in the greenhouse? What if Mini did her usual 'escape-from-Belinda' trick and managed to spill the water? Would I get home to a load of pathetically dehydrated birds, gasping their last? What if there was a monumental ruck which resulted in blood and feather loss? Would incarceration in the (reasonably sized) secure run lead them to go out of their tiny chicken minds? What if Belinda just stayed on the nest, refusing to eat or drink without my encouragement? Oh, the burden of responsibility!

Therefore, the first thing I did when we arrived home yesterday evening was to rush to the back door. I would have been even quicker, if the ever tolerant husband hadn't been in my way. He claims he was checking just to spare me the potential horror of what might await. I think he just missed them.

Of course, they shrieked their heads off to be let out the second they clapped eyes on us. They immediately set about cutting the grass. Belinda didn't come down the ramp with chicken glee, so I nervously approached the nest box. Taking a deep breath, I raised the lid. Belinda looked up at me, bright eyed and very puffed up. On lifting her out, I found six warm eggs in her nest, lovingly tended. Dumping her on the lawn, I removed her 'babies' and gave her some corn to make up for it. She ate with gusto, making me feel a whole lot better.

Maeve was particularly glad to see us. She ran around the garden like a loon, roadrunner stylee, cheeping like mad. Once she'd used up some energy, she toddled up to the back door where I was sitting on the step. She tilted her head to one side, gave me a stern look, and then jumped up on to my knee. After a bit of a fuss from me and the hubby, she got over excited and jumped onto my head. Chicken talons in your scalp is not the most pleasant of sensations. I strongly suspect that for Maeve, however, this was a gesture of chickenny affection closely associated with joy. Bless her.

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