25 July 2007

A day in the life of a Chicken owner

It is morning, and I am finally up and dressed. The dressed part is the tricker for having two small children to assist and likewise help in dressing themselves. Jenna is already on her second outfit and I have just put her breakfast in front of her. Morgan is in the sling already, having got bored of the floor in the time it took for me to drink a mug of peppermint tea and eat a slice of toast. Music is playing quietly (or possibly on a bad day, Ceebeebies). It's time to let the Ladies out.

I go into the garden, yelping as Morgan pulls my hair, open the gate for the outer run and then latch the door to the chicken house open. Two fat ginger birds push past me and make a run for the green spaces beyond. I go back into the house taking their feed bowl with me, and look for a headscarf to stop the giggling smallest child from taking any more of my hair out.

Making up the mash with some warm water, and finding a cup to put some assorted seeds in, is easy. I fill the water up to the top from the barrel by the shed and put the food bowl down. One hen runs to take a look, the other is eating the seed pods from my lily which I am sure is poisonous but I figure she probably knows better than I do. I try to point out a slug to her but she doesn't care. Perhaps slugs are poisonous to chickens? I check whether the straw bedding needs a change and collect an egg (perhaps).

The ladies take their morning exploration seriously. If I know the children will play outside then they can be out most of the day, but if they are unsupervised they have to go back into the run as I can't risk the council asking us to get rid if they keep escaping over the fence. I nip back inside for my cup of tea and realise from my reflection in the mirror that Morgan is asleep up there on my back in her sling.

I finish the tea and put the mug down on the bench, then throw the seeds into the run area calling, "chook chook chook chook - heeeerre chicken, heeere chick chick chickens!" They come running and I shut the door. We have been outside about half an hour in total.

Later I come back and check for eggs again and give them more time to roam if they didn't get a nice long time in the morning. In the evening I come a third time and check the food and water before giving them a last chance to get some greens and scratch in the soil behind the compost heap, then shut them in for the night. If it is dark then they are already inside, making soft feathery sounds of sleep, and I just quietly shut the door on them.

Now I'm sure they'd be fine if I just visited for food and roaming in the morning and then shut the inner door late at night, but they would be BORED. They might cluck quite a bit. They might even start pecking each other. But everyone I know is either working, or chicken phobic, or a combination of other factors! What are we going to do??

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