At last, the dreaded January is banished from the calender. Hoorah! As we greet February, the snowdrops and crocuses are beginning to slowly emerge. At least they are this year, because they are safely ensconsed behing the Barrier. The hens can only eye them with longing, instead of scoffing them with abandon. Ha! In your chickenny faces, ladies!
The hens are still playing by the new rules when it comes to the border. I am, frankly, surprised. Usually they find a way around any obstacles pretty quickly. I can only assume that they are content to lull me in to a false sense of security. No doubt as soon as the border is erupting in to colour, they will break in and rampage around like a load of drunken students, demolishing all plant life in their path. No matter. For now, I am happy to imagine that this might work.
Spring is a strange thing in the chicken kingdom. While I can see spring on the horizon, I'm not expecting it's arrival for a few months yet. The chooks sense it is much closer. Hilda and Gladys have begun crouching, and their first eggs are imminent. At the moment, it's still only Purdy in lay, but any day now I expect her to have company. Combs are reddening up, the odd scuffle is breaking out and Doris is once again doing her deeply annoying baby seagull impression. Seriously, when I think about how I wouldn't dream of inflicting a cockerel on my neighbours, I can't quite believe that no-one has reached over the fence and stuffed Doris in a casserole dish. That hen can be shrill.
Over the winter, the pecking order stays static. There is little in the way of dominance displays, and Mabel very much retreats in to the general flock. But as soon as the days start lengthening, she feels the need to knock the flock in to shape. Many startled hens have been happily minding their own business only to be flattened to the floor by our Illustrious Leader. She is coming up to 3 years old, and is showing no signs of giving up her throne.
Maeve is watching the two youngest flock members keenly. Gladys seems quite content to stay near the bottom of the flock and does her best to avoid confrontation. She isn't bullied in any way, and is obviously a quiet character. The same cannot be said for Hilda. Hilda has decided that she likes the look of the upper echelons of chicken society. Purdy, Celia and Doris have all been challenged, and I can see her sizing up the world famous ASBO Chicken.
I am watching this with trepidation. Maeve is biding her time, and ignores the young upstart unless she sashays past a little too close. A well aimed hiss tends to make her sashay faster, but she doesn't break out in to a full blown waddle. This displeases Maeve. I suspect that any day now, Hilda will launch a full assault. Indeed, sometimes when Maeve is eating Hilda has the metaphorical balls to stand next to her and eat like her equal. This is currently being tolerated, which makes me distinctly nervous. I only hope that when Maeve eventually loses her patience she leaves the younger hen enough feathers to keep her warm for the rest of the winter.
I might end up fashioning a chicken jumpsuit.