Doris was an extremely gobby chicken. She shrieked to be let out in the morning. She shrieked when she layed an egg. She shrieked when someone else layed an egg. She shrieked if the washing blew in her direction. She shrieked if she glimpsed a cat, or a magpie, or a vaguely disconcerting cloud. In short, Doris was an alarm chicken. She took it upon herself to let the rest of the flock know if something slightly threatening might possibly be happening, whether they cared or not. More often than not, they didn't.
Now that Doris has departed this mortal coil, I was expecting things to be much quieter in the back garden. Oh no. Apparently this isn't how it works. It seems that a flock has to have an alarm chicken, in the same way that it needs a top hen. And Doris has left a vacancy.
The competition is fierce. Mabel and Maude are far too high up the pecking order to bother with such a menial task, and Maeve is too much of an outlaw to care about her standing. She prefers to batter her way in to position than be helpful. She is the James Dean of chickens. So that leaves Celia, Gladys and Hilda.
After the early morning wake up calls of early spring, the hens had been relatively quiet. Within days of Doris's demise, that had changed. They now seem to be in competition with each other to be the first noisy hen in the coop. Hilda isn't really a serious contender, and her song is rather half hearted. Celia is taking it more seriously, but can't compete with her predecessors ear splitting shriek. Gladys can't do the baby seagull 'ark ark ark' sound necessary, but can do her godawful Skeksis squeal which sounds a bit like a car skidding played backwards. I realise that is a confusing description, but until I capture her doing it on film, you'll have to trust me that that's as close as I can get.
So now they shriek to be let out. They shriek when they spot a threat, even a flapping dressing gown. They shriek when anyone lays an egg. I glare at them from the kitchen window, praying that the new alarm chicken will be chosen by democratic process quickly. One hen that I know won't get the job is Vera. She tried to throw her hat in to the ring yesterday when a magpie had the temerity to hop along the fence. Just as Celia reared up to give it some, she was pipped to the post by the 'chicken on helium' squeak of the black silkied serama. Vera managed to get a couple of repetitions in before the other contenders descended on her en masse and gave her a severe duffing. She extracted herself from the melee with difficulty and hot footed it back to the hutch, no doubt doing the chicken equivalent of sniggering.
Wicked sense of humour, that tiny chicken.