Yesterday we went for a big walk along the canal to one of my favourite spots, near Theale, but quite a few folk were out and about enjoying the fresh spring air and I confess it left me feeling rather anxious about leaving the house again today. So, instead of going for a Sunday walk, we spent the day in the garden. In all our tasks, we were accompanied by the chickens who were Very Interested In Everything.
We are so lucky to have a garden and to be able to keep hens.
I wish I could share these things with everyone who is feeling afraid or sad in the strange days of this pandemic. The clucking, bustling presence of the chickens plus their dear little sounds are a massive comfort. Since everyone doesn’t have chickens, but lots of us are feeling anxious and worried at the moment, I thought I’d try to share them with you here.
First, let’s talk about the chickens’ eggs. I swear it doesn’t matter how many times I pick up a warm, smooth egg from under a hen, or from the little depression they make in their bedding before they lay, each time it feels like a miracle. How can these characterful little creatures produce these tasty items from their fluffy arses? I think it is magic. I pay very close attention to my chickens’ eggs. If the shells are a little bit thin or seem fragile, I make them a fortifying porridge of oats and ground up eggshells, with some tasty herbs – fennel or chilli or whatever I have on hand – to replenish them. Because of this, the chickens follow me everywhere, optimistically anticipating Treat Porridge. I love to fuss and pamper them and like to think their eggs are extra tasty because of it.
Next let’s talk about their feathers. My chickens have got lovely feathers.
Lizzo – who is the darkest of the flock – has an almost bottle-green iridescence. She is the most laid back of the hens and her shiny emerald plumage is super silky to the touch. You can see the greeny tinge here, in this photo where Lizzo is hanging out with the speckledy Princess that is Missy, and they both have their heads down scratching in the ground for tasty morsels.
Lauren is a gingery-coloured hen; she is extremely food-focused and more adventurous than the others when it comes to “Stuff I Will Do For Food”. She experimentally pecks everything (can I eat it?); wolfs down massive earthworms in three terrifying gulps; jumps or flies up to wherever OMGMEALWORMS are being kept; and will literally *sprint* for food. Lauren also has a horrible habit of jumping in any treatbowl offering and immediately kicking all the contents on the ground, while she ruthlessly sifts through it with her beak in case there are any OMGMEALWORMS in there. I love Lauren’s biscuity feathers and we are allowed to pick her up and give her a cuddle, as long as we don’t come between her and her food.
Missy is shy.
She had a chest infection last year and has never trusted me since I put her in TRAVEL CAGE and took her to VET. She is fleet of foot, impossible to catch, and very interested in caring for The Eggs. Lauren and Becky sometimes forget themselves and lay in random places – yesterday, for example, we had a bit of an “oops, it’s on the patio however did it get there?” moment with those two. However, Missy feels there is an order to The Eggs with which all hens should comply. Sometimes she stands outside the coop and yells for hours – a long, complainy sort of noise – because the proper order of laying is not being observed. Once The Eggs are laid, Missy likes to fluff herself up and cover and warm them.
I very often have to scoot my hand gently underneath her toasty little body to retrieve The Eggs, but she is very sweet tempered about this, and tends to slightly chide me before standing up, fluffing out her magnificent speckled wings, and then settling back down again. Missy is the only chicken to have a fetching little top knot on her head; it bobs about like a fascinator when she runs towards us because OMGMEALWORMS.
The pecking order IS A REAL THING. Becky is at the bottom; she swiftly understood this and, as a matter of survival, has perfected a grab and run manouevre. Little, swift, and the colour of clotted cream, she is relaxed about being picked up and cuddled and will often just hunker down when you’re near and wait to be scooped. The combination of her grab and run moves and her very sweet nature are very winsome and although she is bottom of the flock in the eyes of the others, she might just be our favourite.
Speaking of Becky brings me to my third favourite thing about chickens: Dust Bath.
Becky has a real knack for finding a good spot for a dust bath. She’ll burrow with her feet and beak until she’s sculpted a perfect, chicken-sized divot, in which she’ll then roll around happily for ages – or until another member of the flock turfs her out to take a turn. The main rule of Dust Bath is that everyone wants to be in Dust Bath and the only one of interest is the one that already has a chicken in it.
I wish I had a photo for you of the chickens taking it in turns to enjoy Dust Bath, or rather of the chickens fighting over whose turn it is, but hopefully you can imagine it.
Eggs, Feathers, Dust Baths, OMGMEALWORMS.
In conclusion, Chickens are the best. I love mine so much and wish that I could transmit a tiny chicken cuddle to you, a little cluck, and a perfect poached egg to wherever you are in the world. In the meantime, this post will have to do.
I hope you are finding comfort in whatever you’re doing, wherever you are.
YOURS IN I LOVE MY CHICKENS –