Chicken Whisperer in Training

After the demise of Bertie the cockerel, whose behaviour meant that the only future he had was in a pie, D has been somewhat afraid of chickens. We can't blame him as Bertie was a large White Sussex and did peck D all the way up the garden until we caught both of them. We did try and deal with Bertie's bad boy image but in the end he started to attack the other chickens, and when it's a choice between doing what is right for your livestock and doing what is right for one cockerel; then the decision is rather easy. D tried his best to help out keeping the chickens but that vicious, sod of a cockerel knocked his confidence. We still have a cockerel, in the shape of our black Silkie, Gene Simmons, he is a lovely bird, happy to come and sit beside you unlike the remaining hen, Mrs Cluckerbuck, who had to put up with Bertie's attentions for too long and she still hasn't recovered from it. She is, in one word, surly. So, as you all know, we now have added a Black Rock and Bluebell to our flock, with a further two hens being added to the fold in a few more weeks. It is the introduction of these two rather placid birds that has hooked D into trying to keep hens again. 

Keeping chickens

Since buying them he has asked to visit them daily, feed them and collect their eggs. He is fascinated by their calls and how they eat so readily from the hand. Mrs Cluckerbuck has never done this and Bertie would have taken a finger off.

Chicken feeding

They are also calm enough to pick up and yes, stroke. For those of you who keep poultry, you may think this is making pets of them but chickens are wonderful, funny animals, and if they are pets, they are pets with egg benefits. We will talk about meat later; if we decide to go down that route. At present, we want to get D used to working with them, picking them up and that first step is about building confidence.

D's favourite hen is Lola, he named her, she is a showgirl, a fluffy bluebell with a deep baritone cluck (there you go, two song references for one chicken). He regularly strokes her and though he has yet to hold her he is not fussed when Princess Layer pecked him (our other new hen), he batted her away and carried on with his job. When he told me it was as an aside to something else he wanted to talk about unlike #Bertiegate which he milked for weeks, months and years. He still brings up that cockerel as the benchmark of evil. He's right, it was from hell itself.

Chicken stroking

Carol though is totally smitten with the new hens. Over breakfast she talks about their bowel movements, concerned with any change in form and texture, I have not eaten breakfast since we got the hens for fear of a colour chart being pulled out from beneath the table to catalogue whether the birds are happy or under the weather. My catchall line now is: They're new here, it takes time to settle in. From the other room D yells, Bertie never settled in, you should have seen what he did to me. He then promptly pulls his trousers down searching for peck marks that have long faded and which seem to move and grow in number depending on how much cake he wants later in the day. Like I said, no breakfast, for days.


Carol visits the old and new birds each morning, as Gene Simmons the Silkie cockerel peers out over no chicken land to the new hens. D goes to him to tell him soon he will have more hens with him, it does nothing for Mrs Cluckerbuck's surly attitude. She has taken to standing on a branch in the run peering down at the new hens across the way as if she is ruminating over what she will say at the next WI meeting: Have you seen those new hens at number four? Out to nine at night. I'm not casting aspersions but we all know what kind of hen stays out that late. If she could get on twitter, she would be using the hashtag #hussyhen. Gene in the meantime patrols the fence closest to the other run, we catch him preening and crowing to them but they still ignore him as Mrs Cluckerbuck looks down her beak at them all. There's trouble there ahead.

Chicken coops

D though settles into the new chickens, we catch him talking to them, reassuring them that this is a nice place, throwing blackberries to them, scattering corn in both pens. He whispers to them and they cluck back, and he smiles.

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