Monday, April 12, 2010

Houdini Hens

Yesterday morning the artfully arranged cos lettuce seedlings were nestled in their loamy soil, with carefully mounded mulch piles acting as a checkerboard in shape and contrast to the soft apple green of the tender leaves.

This morning the scene resembled the aftermath of a mini asteroid's impact on a small section of the community garden. My gasp set the corn leaves rustling. I glanced up and saw a brown shadow trying to escape into the pumpkin patch. "You devil," I shouted. The brown shadow moved further under the large spreading leaves, chuckling to herself as she scratched feverishly for some worms or insects. I love the chickens, who do have names, but I haven't learnt them for fear of something else horrible happening to them, but at this point I could have wrung this one's scrawny neck, envisioning the fat dripping onto the end of the month barbeque. What am I saying, I don't even eat meat! Look, ladies, what you have turned me into!

So here we are many moons forward from our initial turning and mulching and making soil. Ms Mova and I discuss strategies and developments as we cycle our way to work every day. We wait for each other like two schoolgirls, riding around and around if one or the other is late, waving madly when the tardy one finally appears and then mull over the day's happenings.

At some point I have to report on the incredibly awful happenings of November last. Planning for our trip away, excitedly talking about our plans at the cocktails in the garden I failed to notice an insalubrious character wander in and case the chicken run. A couple of loitering mates joined him outside the fence and then wandered off again. The next morning at breakfast, chatting over yet another cup of green tea, my sister and I were interrupted by Ms Mova. She sat down in the kitchen quietly and then burst into tears. Two of the chickens had been slaughtered. She had been the one to find the headless bodies and one discarded head. Not victims of predatory animals but predatory humans. The gate to the henhouse was forced off, the fence pushed down and the poor creatures massacred. The one remaining must have led them a merry dance we noted with satisfaction. Tearing through the tomatoes and corn and unable to find her in the dark she had escaped a very unsatisfactory end. I began to think that even battery cages would have been preferable but then thought again. The police took us seriously and sent two very sympathetic officers to interview us and promise to keep a look out for unsavoury characters, of which there are a few, in the neighbourhood.

We were lucky. There did not seem to be demand for a repetition of Black Sabbath rituals and just to make sure, we padlocked the henhouse and the fence was refortified. Our new chickens who do have names, remain ladies or girls to me. I dare not name them again. Poor Miss Havisham and poor Estelle. As doomed as their namesakes.

But on a brighter note our little darlings produce 4-5 eggs daily and rush hungrily for the scraps that anyone might carry in for them. Anything in a bucket or pot is fair game and they leg it down the side of the fence to see what you might bring

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