I’ve been inspired by a lovely blog (visit chooksandroots.wordpress.com) to write a post about our chooks. I don’t do enough on our chickens, I know – one of the main reasons is because they’re actually very difficult to photograph.
Hens tend to make really sudden, jerky movements (usually at precisely the point when you’re firing the shutter) and even when they’re lying around sunbathing (as in the picture above) their heads are usually still twitching, they’re keeping an eye on everything that goes on around them. Plus, ours are really quite dark, and metering for them takes a fair bit of trial and error.
Anyway, excuses over, for those of you who don’t already know them, I introduce to you Agatha, Tabitha, Bagatha and James Mason. No, there isn’t a cockerel, they’re all girls. They’re named from one of Eddie Izzard’s bizarre stand-up routines. We got them last year, as pullets, and they’ve taken to life in Shetland very well. They present us with at least three – usually four – eggs every day, and they also provide quite a bit of entertainment.
Over the spring and summer we’ve had them contained in the back half of the garden, to give the flowers a bit of a chance to grow, but I’ve missed having them around the front door and their coming to see what you’re up to when you’re out in the garden, chook-chooking away to you, curious and interested in what you’re doing. And they’d lost quite a bit of the socialisation that we’d given them, because they weren’t not around us so much, so were running away when we went to stroke them or pick them up.
So, when they began escaping again, I just thought ‘Sod it’ – the plants are all OK and mature enough to look after themselves now, so the chooks now have the run of the whole garden again.
They do keep trying to come in the house – James Mason, in particular, seems to have an obsession with shoes. Just inside the front door, under the seat of an old pew, is our outdoor shoe collection, and she just wants to be in there, all the time. I don’t know if she’s looking for an alternative laying place (they all lay in the same box in the hen house) or just somewhere quiet to have a rest.
They eat flies and mosquitoes (hurrah for the hens!), and they also have a bit of a passion for potatoes and oatcakes, but their absolute favourite is bacon rind. As soon as they hear a window being opened, they come running and gather underneath, looking up expectantly, wondering what goodies are going to be rained down upon them. They do often end up wearing their food. One day, Agatha had a bit of bacon rind stuck to her back, and was running off along the path, with one of the twins chasing after her, desperate to get it before either of the others spotted it.
I love to sit on the front doorstep in the sunshine, watching their silly knock-kneed walk as they chunter to themselves, foraging about the garden, dustbathing in a dry patch, or just lying in the sun.