Maude is a miserable sight. Where once she sported a fine coat of glossy feathers, she is now threadbare and scrawny. Her irritation is palpable. She regularly shakes herself from pale combed head to barely there backside and turns herself in to a snow globe. As the swirling feathers alight on the lawn, she stalks off muttering. The rows of new quills poking painfully through her skin are visible as she moves. If there was such a thing as chicken ibuprofen, I would definitely give her a dose. Unfortunately, all I can offer her in way of relief is some poultry spice to top dress her feed and a tonic in her drinking water.
My sympathy for Maude is only matched by my despair at the state of my garden. Every day I bribe the children to pick up feathers for me. I offer biscuits and extra minutes before bedtime if they will just pick up twenty pieces formerly of Maude. They do so with eye rolls, and in the last few days have picked up nearly 400 feathers. I wish I could say it's made a difference. This morning, I spent forty five minutes gathering a carrier bag full of pillow stuffing. With pride, I surveyed my almost perfect lawn. Maude watched me from her dust bath in the border. Predictably, no more than ten minutes after I'd finished the great lawn pick up, she emerged. With a stately stroll across the grass to the Palace, she undid all my hard work. The wind picked at her bare coverings and gleefully redecorated the garden with under fluff. I decided to have wine with lunch.
Just as picking up feathers is beginning to feel like a Herculean task, I similarly can't see any end in sight to the parade of broodies passing through the nest box. Hilda was rapidly joined by Celia, and both girls need breaking as soon as possible. However, I know that they will quickly be replaced by other members of the flock. They seem to have some complicated rota system sorted out between them. I wish I'd been copied in to that memo because it would have saved me a lot of time.
A keepers tasks are never done.