Tuesday, 19 April 2011

In which I become a Chicken mama...

 It has been three days. Three long, glorious, sun soaked summer days since my girls arrived. I have emerged from my love haze only out of necessity, the necessity for me to go to the “office job” and move paper. I took a day off to help them settle in but I can see that it’s me who has to settle. I’ve been a wreck. Every snuffle, every squeak and I’m there, laptop to hand googling symptoms and clogging up poultry forums. I’ve been waking up at the crack of dawn, ears alert waiting to see if they’re going to be early risers, noisy morning birds or sleep right through. Do they like broccoli? Bread? Grapes? Why won’t they eat their worming medicine? Do they need grit yet? Are they allergic to hay? But it has been lovely...

Alf with his new girls...

On Saturday my pa and I drove to Southmead Poultry in Leatherhead- with firm assertions that we were “only looking- not buying”. Of course we left an hour later with a green Eglu Go and two beautiful hens, both hybrid ginger girls but one blonde and one a red head,(plus all their accessories, layers pellets, corn snacks, oyster shell, worming liquid, flea powder, dust free hay...these girls are high maintenance!)  
Normally the Eglu would be no problem. The boyf loves a flat pack, he can knock up an ikea shelving unit in under half an hour- forget the instructions. Unfortunately he was at work so the job fell to me and my ma. Sitting on the lawn, hundreds of pieces of green plastic Eglu around us and two clearly bored hens in a cardboard box we feared the worst, the hens would have to live in their box forever, but we persevered and after an hour, two broken nails, a fair amount of swearing and a lot of girl power, we were done.
The mum builds...

We released the hens into their run, much to the delight of Alf the dog. They celebrated by pooping, a lot.  All seemed to have gone to plan, the chickens were happy, the eglu was a trifle, the dog perplexed, I congratulated myself on being a fine poultry keeper.

Alf the dog on patrol....

Feeling confident I left the girls alone to settle in for an hour, on my return I foolishly thought they might like to have a cuddle. I opened the hatch, put my arm in and in slow motion, the blonde escaped. It was my fault, I frightened her with my elbow but she was out. Looking at me. With comedy style I lunged, she leapt and she was out of sight. Under the hedge and into next doors garden. My mother, at 49 years old was over the wall before I could say “fox food” herding blondie back.
Once she was back in the garden my troubles were far from over, as she led me, Benny Hill style round and round the Eglu, the mother shouting over the hedge and the red head sitting in the water bowl watching (clearly laughing at me!). I just couldn’t catch her. Eventually I threw my cardigan over her and with a swift and stealthy movement grabbed her. Cardigan removed she cuddled up to me quite happily murmuring away like butter wouldn’t melt.
Characters now firmly established we could name them. The escape artist, also the noisiest and peckiest of the pair is Mildred and her sidekick- who is a little chubby and much more reserved- is Maude. (Think back to The Worst Witch books and you’ll get it.)
Once order was restored I set out on a vigorous few days a chicken training. Mildred and Maude now know the sound of my voice and more importantly the sound of the treat box and will run to the hatch in the run  to greedily nibble it out of my hand, they’ll even stick their necks out to try and reach the pot! I am hoping this will bode well when they are allowed out (after the boyf has chicken proofed the hedges!) and they will come charging back from whatever bit of the garden they are currently destroying.
In the 3 days I’ve had them, I’ve learnt a lot. Here’s a run down-
·         Chickens poo. A lot. Like tonnes. This is good for my compost but not so good for the lawn.
·         They make funny little noises all the time. Well naughty blonde Mildred does anyway.
·         They’re not scared of the dog. He is obsessed with them. They charge at him periodically.
·         They know when it’s bed time. This made me a very proud chicken mama on their first night....
Please feel free to leave comments admiring the beauty of my new girls...

Maude (the red head) and Mildred (the blonde)


  1. They are indeed gorgeous girls. What a well fed pampered life those two are going to lead. And what yummy eggs you'll get as a reward.

    I remember getting my first girls, I was mesmerised for days. Hens are just so 'watchable'.

    And yes our Sophie (the Border Collie) is transfixed by all chickens too!

    Sue xx

  2. Awww congratulations s on becoming a mama!
    Our King Charles Spaniel was soon put in her place from pretty much day one, now they happily co-exist!
    Won't be long I bet before you get brave enough just to give them a little bit of free ranging...they soon come back in once they know the call for food believe me, even if they do manage to find the only hole you didn't spot in the hedge!
    Lots of luck with them, they'll be very happy chooks x