Saturday, 2 January 2010

The Big Chill

Perhaps not unusually for January, it is absolutely freezing outside. The ground barely gets a chance to thaw before the night descends again, and with it plummeting temperatures. According to the weather reports, for the next week we can expect night time lows of up to -7 degrees Celsius. Brrrr. Now, that's one thing if you're a human with lovely central heating, fleecy pyjamas and an ever tolerant husband to make you tea. It is quite another if you are a small, short legged chicken.

The girls are deeply unimpressed with the current conditions. They hop from one short leg to the other across the lawn, muttering at the cold. They huddle against the back door, looking in at the warm kitchen, layering on the human guilt. Chickens are not very good at looking beseeching (no movable eyelids/eyebrows), but they are exceptionally good at giving you a look which says 'You in there! Yes! You! You with your radiators! You disgust us!'. They often follow up this look with a large poo, right outside the door. Chickens are vengeful creatures.

In an attempt to keep them warm, I purchased a large plastic tarpaulin. The idea being, that I could enclose the Convent and run, so that the bedding would stay dry and the wind would be kept out. If there's something that chickens hate more than damp, it's a draught. I battled valiantly with the enormous sheet of plastic while the chooks looked on. It took quite some effort in the not inconsiderable wind to get it anchored down. The ladies watched all of this from the garden bench, where they sat, muttering and giving me the beady eye.

At last, the tarpaulin was in place. I was quite pleased with the result (and fairly philosophical about the amount of poo/mud which the damn thing had splatted up against me when the wind decided that what really needed wrapping in a plastic sheet, was me). Throwing some corn into the run, I stood back to allow the girls access.

They were having none of it. My redesign of their living space did not meet their approval in any way. Even Maeve, the bravest, fiercest hen who has ever lived (probably) wouldn't get closer than about three metres. Every so often, the wind would rustle the plastic, and much chuntering by the hens would ensue. In fact, they not only seemed dubious, but also actually affronted. I decided it was far too cold for all this carry on, and manually stuffed small hens into the coop. Generally, the girls are used to more dignified treatment, and were shocked into compliance.

Ungrateful little madams.

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