Now that the summer appears to have arrived, we're all spending a lot more time outside. The children are playing out with their friends, and constantly running back and forth via the side gate. I'm forever pottering around the garden, changing things here and using scary electrical equipment there. The girls are not impressed.
I suppose, from their point of view, it must seem terribly unfair. All through the long, miserable winter, they were allowed to wander wherever they liked. There was lots of bare earth to dig and scratch about in, and I only appeared to feed them warm porridge and keep them comfortable. However, the weather was far from ideal, and they spent a good stretch of it in the coop, huddled for warmth.
Now that the sun is shining, they long to sunbathe in the middle of the lawn (A chicken sunbathing is a disconcerting sight. They lay on one side, one wing spread out to catch the sun, and looking a lot like they've been flattened from on high. The first time I saw this pose was from an upstairs window, and I nearly broke my neck getting down to what I thought was a soon to be ex Maude). However, the pesky humans keep disturbing them. They are particularly unimpressed with the lawn mower, although Mabel has taken to (fittingly enough) playing chicken with it. She lays there, reclining in the sun, and glares at me flymoing towards her. Naturally, as I approach I tend to slow down, having no desire to dice the stubborn bird. She usually takes up a loud bok-bok-bok-ARK as I get within six feet, but still stays firm. I gingerly edge towards her, making shooing sounds, and she stays put until the air ruffles her feathers. At which point she stands up, stretches slowly, and then saunters off. I suspect that if she had fingers, she'd be showing me two of them as she departs.
If I'm not harassing them, then the kids generally are. The youngest got a swingball set for his birthday, and the two of them love nothing more than whacking the tethered ball as hard as they can. Initially, the hens hid in the shrubbery from all this frantic activity. As time passes, they are beginning to realise that this horror has a limited reach, so it's probably safe to run hell for leather between shrubs. In this way, they commando their way around the perimeter of the garden and back to the Convent, where I imagine they are dreaming up diabolical plans of chicken sabotage.
By far the worst offense we have committed against our feathered friends has to be the humble barbecue. I refuse to light the barbie while the girls are free ranging, so they are banished back to the coop. As far as they are concerned, this is unforgivable. No matter that if left to their own devices, they might try to land on the lit barbie. Chickens are notoriously nosey creatures, and I know that at some point one of them would want to investigate the sausages. They show their displeasure by shouting loudly at us while we try to enjoy a pleasant evening. They have us over a barrel with this one, as the only way to silence their disgust is with food. They're quite partial to hot dog rolls.
I bet they can't wait for the winter again.