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The Chickens, The Garden and me.

by fluffyduck 

Posted: 07 May 2003
Word Count: 1120
Summary: How to keep chickens, and how not to keep chickens, and how to get deep inside the chicken mind.

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The Chickens the Garden and Me.


The world is divided into those who have chickens and those who donít yet know they want them.

This is not a reference book. The facts stated here are taken from real-life chicken-observation done in the back garden. Anything that turns out to have been complete cobblers is not my fault, and does not affect your statutory rights.

Phoebe: A brown and golden warren chicken, the leader of the pack and commander of her army.
Monica: Also a warren, information and communication specialist, escapologist.
Joe: Little brother.

The Great Outdoors
Anyway, we had about four square meters of scrub that had been left to live by the previous owners of the house, and which would be ideal, we thought. So we fenced it off and put up about 180cms of wire round most of it, until we ran out of wire Ė we hadnít bought the second role at that time. Use all the walls you can. Chickens donít harm it in any way but will keep bugs off the house and you need fewer fence posts. Then, when we had finally accomplished this outdoor feat of brilliance, we opened the little door of Balmoral (their coop) and watched what would happen. Nothing did. The chickens had now been in there for almost 24 hours, they had to be getting bored by now, but they didnít come out. All right, we came out from behind the barriers we had set up to prevent a sudden dash for freedom and looked down into Balmoral, where Monica and Phoebe were sitting on the ladder, patiently waiting for it to collapse or for the floor to get closer. So it was my turn again to go in and brave the beaks and wings, because I had now been deemed the expert in chicken catching, and everyone else was happy to hold open the door or the wire roof (because it was an outhouse it already had a roof, the wire was just too keep other things out and, as I will explain later, to stop them tearing each other to pieces. After a brief flutter of wings Monica (or possibly Phoebe) was on the ground, ruffling herself up at the indignity and looking balefully up at Phoebe (or possibly Monica). I had backed out to give the chicken at the bottom some space, possibly to see if she was going to jump straight back up again, so we were pleasantly surprised to find the chicken at the top jumping down, apparently with ease, to join her companion. This makes you wonder why she didnít do it all along, but perhaps she just didnít want me to grab her.
We retreated to behind the boundary-fence again, which just so happened to have been the roof earlier that day but was not needed as such for that. Slowly Phoebe (and Iím pretty sure it was Phoebe because she has since proved herself more adventurous and inquisitive) stuck her head out, looked round, then vanished again. Monica stuck her head out as well, to confirm what Phoebe had seen, then vanished too. There was a moment of thoughtful pause, while everything that had been seen was considered and digested, then Phoebe came out for a conformational glance and dipped inside again. It was like watching two old ladies discuss whether the air was too cold for a trip to the shops, or possibly like a vaguely out of time cuckoo-clock. With chickens.
Finally, after much apparent deliberation, Phoebe got all the way outside and started to peck around our small concrete patio, finding the odd grain of wheat we had left for them, as a clue to the direction of the chicken enclosure. Originally I suppose we had no intention to rush them, the idea being that they had had enough trauma yesterday, but in the end Monica was shooed out when Joe opened the main door with the rest of us guarding the escape roots. We had got them as far as our enclosure now, and they were settling in. To the delight of everyone present the chickens almost instantly indulged in a dust bath, which happens about twice a week if the ground is available, and is to clear out bugs or something like that. As far as Phoebe was concerned it was an opportunity to spray as much soil into the atmosphere as possible, then up and off for a quick drink. That was basically all they did that day, as there was still a lot of shell-shock to be overcome before they would start laying. According to the guy we got them off one of the chickens had started to lay, but obviously he didnít know that she was called Phoebe, so we didnít know for days after until it became clear that wherever Phoebe went, eggs followed.
That night they decided that it would be even more fun to use the carefully designed cupboard drawers-come-nesting boxes, so both of them climbed on top of the left hand one, now close on a meter off the floor, and nuzzled together. At least they would have each other in the morning.
I had to get Monica down in the morning, and she pecked my finger, but Phoebe had had enough of this lifting up and putting down and showed herself the door, prancing out just ahead of Monica. A pecking order was certainly being established here, as Phoebe had a persistent upper hand. This was the first day I had alone with them and I have to confess that in the absence of a life I spent most of the morning chicken watching. It was not that they did a lot, they were just so good at filling time by not doing things. Phoebe would find a patch of ground to scrape and would scrape, then peck, then scrape again. Monica would find a worm and Phoebe would eat it, after a brief scrap which mostly involved going round in circles until Monica cut her losses and went to find another one.
Despite their fascination in live worms, and there clearly was a lot of fun there, neither of them seemed at all interested in flies, and would totally ignore them. A live worm was certainly a bit of a feed, but they had to get hold of an end before they could eat it, which meant fighting the worm, which was doing its best to keep both ends as far away from the chicken as it could. It was the kind of helpless fight for survival that made you pity the worm, then go and dig up the garden to try and find some more.

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Comments by other Members

Richard Brown at 11:12 on 31 July 2003  Report this post
Most amusing! Is it really the start of a book? I have no idea what the DIY chicken-keeping book market is like but I imagine that there are many thousands out there who keep chickens and who would much enjoy reading about the experiences of a new chicken-keeper. One suggestion; very early on, there's a remark addressed to the reader ('Use all the walls you can') which makes the book seem like a DIY manual, thereafter it's more like a diary. For my money it would be much better just as the latter, leaving the reader to draw their own conclusions. Good luck with the cluckings.

CeliaB at 14:29 on 31 December 2005  Report this post
Chicken Run meets the Good Life...? A lively and interesting read with subtle humour [We retreated (to) behind the boundary-fence again, which just so happened to have been the roof earlier that day] I was imagining this as I read - good, and thought perhaps more emphasis could be placed on the humour.
[stuck her head out, looked round, then vanished again] Good -humorous images of chickens just as they are.
Again good visuals [showed herself the door, prancing out just ahead of Monica.]
[A pecking order was certainly being established here] Ha, ha!

I like the diary-style approach more than the Handbook-style and think that would appeal more to the reader.

Good work.

Kara at 08:56 on 10 March 2006  Report this post
Of course there's a market, hen fanciers are everywhere! Keep up the good work, chicks are full of character, with an amazing sense of logic.best wishes

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