Sunday, 31 January 2016

Four Out, Eight In

Someone out there has got my chickens. Got them for a bargain too, just £1.50 per bird. It was Bwbach's fault. In the seven days between the hardening of my heart that led to booking them in for market day and the day The Chicken Man came to collect them, Bwbach decided to moult again. For the first few days you could track her progress around the yard and gardens by the drifts of fluffy bum feathers, like isolated patches of stubborn snow after the thaw. One morning, looking out the window down at the chicken run, I thought they'd been another death by fox, but no, just the debris from of another Bwbach grooming session, mainly tail feathers this time.

On the eve of market day, she had a part spiky, part bald, back end. Unfortunately for Glas, Tanwen and Gwen, not every prospective chicken buyer knows a moult when he/she sees one. A partially feathered chicken loses something of its eye appeal, and brings down the price of her cage mates. Last time our girls fetched just £1 per bird, so I guess a rise of 50p each over two years is better than a poke in the eye with the pointy end of a feather. My minimum wage salary only went up by 39p per hour in the same period.

So they're out there, somewhere, living in someone else's hen house, laying poo but not eggs in someone else's nest boxes.

Meanwhile, in my hen house there are eight pale faced pullets. As yet unnamed. We need to get to know each other a little better before I start allocating names. They're not at the most attractive stage of life right now, facially looking more reptile than fowl, no combs, no wattles, just blinking eyes in a scaly face. Like skinny feathered baby dinosaurs.


The door opened at first light. By 8 a.m. all my baby dinosaurs were still in the house. No surprise there. They have never been outdoors before. Instinct hasn't yet kicked in. A tray of food (actually, a long sectioned canape serving dish retrieved from the back of the cupboard - anything high sided is tipped over in a trice by those clutchy, clumsy claws that Mother Nature gave chickens for feet) placed in side the door of the house soon breaks up the fearful huddle, they jostle for feeding space, greedily peck, peck, pecking at the layers' pellets. A cunningly laid trail of pellets from the canape dish, over the threshold, and along the ground to the main feeder eventually caught the eye of chicken number one. Out she came, wing stretch, feather shake, and in the time it took her to do a tentative lap of the house, chicken number one became Dora. The Explorer. It was meant to be.


An hour later. Dora and four baby dinosaurs are under the hen house. Three baby dinosaurs are yet to leave the house. I hope they're not dead.


Another hour later. Dora and six baby dinosaurs are discovering the great outdoors, spooking themselves every time a gust of wind ruffles and parts the bottom feathers. One baby dinosaur is still in the house. She's the last to venture out and needs some "gentle" encouragement. Chicken number eight became Diwetha. The last. In Welsh.

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