Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Chicken Catastrophe No. 279632 - Live

Well, this is novel. I am writing this in the midst of a genuinely distressing chicken related catastrophe. Oh no, don't worry. All ten inhabitants of the Palace are hale and hearty. It is yours truly who is suffering right now. Relieved, aren't you?

Yes, I am suffering. Why, you ask? Well, I'll tell you. It's because I have actual chicken poo in my hair and I can't right now wash it. Yes, you read that right. Actual, authentic chicken crap. In my hair. How, you ask? Why, let me elaborate.

About an hour ago, I decided to clean out the hens. I donned my trusty chicken cleaning coat, my garden shoes and the puppy. Tethering said puppy to the outside tap, I got on with it. I picked up the perch block and relaised my hands were wet. Looking down, I saw that the perch block was somewhat...splattered. Lovely. But being the trooper that I am, I wiped my hands and soldiered on. Now, it's windy here today in the midlands, and the newspapers and debris was blowing about a fair bit. I battled with the coop door getting it closed as a particularly frisky gust tore through the garden. But eventually, all was clean, secure and dealt with. I fetched the puppy and came inside where I immediately scrubbed my hands with half a dispenser of soap.

Yet I could still smell chicken poo. I checked my clothes, my shoes, the puppy. Nope, no sign. Yet every so often, an unpleasant perfume would waft up at me. With determination, I splashed bleach in the mop bucket and washed the floor. Ha, I thought, now I have conquered the poo where no poo should be. Triumphantly, I tucked my hair behind my ear. And was swiftly smacked in the face with the stench of excrement. Oh. My. God. The wayward poo was IN MY HAIR. I scrubbed at it with a bit of kitchen towel, shuddering. I must have tucked my hair back with a pooey hand without even noticing. Eugh.

I did a little dance of disgust, and was just heading upstairs to the shower when the doorbell went. It was the heating engineer, come to fix the radiator upstairs. An appointment we've waited a month for. So, reader, I let him in. I smiled and was polite. All the time there is poo in my hair. I made him tea. Knowing that less than an inch from my face was the remnents of poultry excrement. And I can't wash it out until the heating engineer leaves. I suppose I could mention to him my predicament and stick my head in the sink, but as he could see my dance of disgust through the window I suspect he already thinks I'm odd. There's no socially acceptable way of mentioning that you have animal faeces on your head.

Right now, reader, as I am writing this post, the puppy is sat on my lap intently sniffing my hair and then looking at me in utter amazement. Even he isn't such a skanky git, and he licks his own bum.

If the engineer doesn't leave soon, I will be forced to shave my head.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Integration Update

The serama have been in the Palace for three nights now, so I guess I'm committed. I peek in to the coop every so often, just to make sure none of the girls have harpooned Betsy to the wall with a specially sharpened talon, and so far so good. In fact, Betsy got quite brave this morning and even dared to make a grab for some stale bread I'd thrown in as a treat. Naturally, she got a sound duffing for her troubles, but her confidence seems to be growing.

Vera seems unbothered by her change of abode. She keeps a sensible distance from the narky pekins, but other than that just gets on with being a small fluffy chicken. Her apparent ease unsettles the pekin ladies. They like to see a bit of reverence and fear in their underlings. Unsure of how to tackle this new development, they tend to ignore Vera and focus their chickenny wrath on Betsy.

Betsy is fast, however. Much, much faster than a pekin in full waddle. She zig zags around her would-be tormentors, squawking her tiny head off. The noise is so astonishing that it frequently stops a pile on in its tracks. Of course, it helps that at this time of year chickens tend to be at their most lethargic. The long nights, the cold and the annual moult tend to put them off their stride somewhat. When I attempted integration in the summer, I had to abandon the idea as the pekins were in full feisty mode and I feared for the seramas' lives. Not now.

Last time, the charge on the miniscule chickens was lead by a fearsome Maeve. Now that we're in December, however, she really can't be bothered. If they wander too close they might get an ASBO Chicken special, aka a shrill growl and a puffing up of feathers. But she can't find the enthusiasm for giving chase of squashing anyone. Without their malevolent General to orchestrate chaos, the others have rather lost the taste for it. Well, all apart from Hilda.

Hilda still looks utterly ridiculous. She is no longer bald, but her sprouting feathers make her look a bit like a shuttlecock that a spiteful cat has been at. She seems to know that she looks like a berk, and to make sure that none of the other hens laugh at her, she has taken to attacking anyone that comes within range. Higher hens in the flock respond in kind, and she is getting in to a lot of fights. Poor Betsy and Vera bear the brunt of her filthy mood. Yet without back up, she is unable to do any real damage, and with Betsy able to run like a roadrunner while making a noise like a foghorn on helium, she's no real threat.

I always planned on having a united flock, so I very much hope that this works out. The serama have much more space in the Palace run than they do in their garage hutch, and they take up so little room they don't really impede on the others' space.

The only one who seems really put out is the pup, who very much enjoyed jumping up at the serama hutch and making them flap.

Friday, 9 December 2011

There Is No Such Thing As Perfect

This is now my mantra. There is no such thing as the perfect garden. I tell myself this as I survey my small outside space and witness the scattered stones, holey borders and lopsided shrubs. Once upon a time, ten small chickens were my garden vandals and the damage was relentless but easy to repair. Now there is a dog. Enough said.

There is no such thing as a perfect hen house. I tell myself this as I climb in to the Palace with a long handled broom to get errant poo from the far corners. To be fair, this is the only criticism I have of the Palace. And really it's my problem. I have stumpy arms.

There is no such thing as a perfect flock. Since the very beginning of my chicken keeping adventure, I have yearned to have a picturesque huddle of hens, all in fine health and feather, arranging themselves artfully around the borders. This does not happen. One hen will always be moulting or purple from Gentian Violet after a punch up. Artful arrangement will go to the wall as they dustbath all of your plants out of existence. And don't get me started on their appalling toilet habits. A hot, sizzling curry poo on the back step in July soon evaporates any ideas of genteel beauty, let me tell you.

There is no such thing as a perfect integration. There will be squawking, and screeching, and someone will end up being systematically sat on by everyone else. I write this knowing that right now that someone is Betsy, as all ten birds are currently shut in the Palace. The weather has turned cold and I'm worried for my delicate serama. If the pekins can grudgingly accept them and let them move in, they will have eight snuggly duvets to hide under. But as I said, no integration is perfect. They may end up back in their hutch after all.

Meh, perfection would probably be dull.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

A Bald Chicken And A Plummeting Thermometer

Tonight, we're expecting our first properly cold winter temperatures. The forecast is displaying a lonely number 1. Ordinarily, this wouldn't phase me much. This is my third winter with hens and I know that they can tolerate some pretty extreme temperatures. But right now, Hilda is virtually bald. Large patches of pink chicken skin are on display. Her underfluff is non-existant. And that concerns me. Chooks rely on their feathery insulation.

When I posted yesterday about Hilda's rapid derobement, a twitter pal jokingly suggested putting a tea cosy on her. You know, sticking her head through the spout hole. Now, of course that's ridiculous. I mean, it is, right? That would be mad. Of course, like most tea drinking households, we are in possession of a tea cosy. It's considered ironic or something. So, yes, technically I do have the required chicken jumper. But just because I have the hen and the tea cosy doesn't mean I should blend them. That would be daft.

Looking at the tea cosy, it does look about pekin sized. Not that I would, of course. Before we acquired the insane puppy, I might have brought Hilda inside and put her in the downstairs loo. But I feel that would be tempting fate. So Hilda must stay outside. Jumper-less. Even though I have the tea cosy. Right here. In my hand.

I'm just popping outside for a minute.