Call me ‘Old MacDonald’ who has a not-quite-farm, Ei-i-ee-i-o.
And on my not-quite-farm I have some Chickens, Ee-i-ee-i-o…
Their arrival has been anything but smooth, poor beasts. Maybe that’s why they still haven’t started laying. Yep, seven weeks on and we’re still eggless. Patience is wearing thin, I tells ya.
Mr D wanted to make a chicken house from all the bits and pieces of materials we have scattered around our monstrous yard. I thought it would be the most wonderful experience for the Little Lion – building a house for the chooks. I even had the shots planned. Angles, focal lengths, white balances…
But as the months dragged on, it became clear that designing and constructing a chook pen was never going to make it to the top of the priority list when competing with the likes of ‘asbestos fencing to be removed’, ‘lights on front porch, in front room, in Blossom’s room, in back room, in office’, ‘finish AC ducting’, ‘GET A GARDEN SHED SO MR D CAN ACTUALLY GET INTO HIS GARAGE TO COMPLETE AFOREMENTIONED TASKS!!!’… and that kind of thing.
We both came to the decision independently. Mr D conceded that LL would get more kicks out of chooks than watching dad bang a few timbers together, so we bought a pen online. A whizz-bang-Taj Mahal of a thing. Actually, we just got the 7-chook Penthouse, because we thought the 12-chook Taj might be a bit big. Whatever.
It sings, it dances and it houses the birds for days at a time if you need to leave them locked away from night-hunters for a bit. Brilliant. It would be delivered within 5 days. Even better. I tracked down the only guy on the east coast who actually breeds both the types of chooks I was after and he had some available (“but, just warnin’ ya, they won’t last long, plenty a people snappin’ ‘em up…”). We were good to go.
Except that the pen didn’t arrive. Stall the chook man. The pen still didn’t arrive. Stall him again (“Youse’re fair dinkum, right? Coz I got me plenty of people who wan’em…”). Then, on a Tuesday, half the pen arrived in a badly damaged box. I called the supplier and they were suitably aghast. Send photos of damage. Wait until tomorrow for next half of pen. Cannot stall chook man any further. He agrees to bring chooks in a cage in which they can happily live for a week (“or ‘round about”), but I am certain we’ll heave them in a singing and dancing chook house by Thursday night.
Alas, this particular Thursday turned out to be a stressful one – I was trying to clean the house for the first time since we moved in (in December 2009) before I became the proud new host of a weekly Friday playgroup, our impossible-to-pin-down builder came to install the range hood that had inhabited my hallway since last September and the leadlight doors that had been under the bed since November, and it was pouring for the first time in weeks, sending great sheets of water across our yard and through our pretend gutters. Into this bedlam came the traumatised (and still homeless) chooks.
Mr Chook and I decided that the best spot for our new pets in this weather would be on the cubby house deck, but as I spread the floor tarpaulin in readiness, the heavens opened, the torrent streamed in sideways (highlighting the need for some additional tarpaulin wind protection) and Mr Chook and I found ourselves trapped in the intimate confines of Little Lion’s cubby house.
We waited and made uncomfortable small talk. I offered him a pretend cup of tea from a miniature cup. We peered out the windows. I began wondering if Eau d’ Chook was a compulsory part of hen ownership and I knew it was time to make a dash for the house, regardless of the biblical torrent. It would be less uncomfortable to be drenched to the bone than to remain, stooped and in such alarmingly close proximity with a man who admitted to preferring cash payments so his disability pension might not be compromised.
Some time later, as the chooks clucked miserably and pecked at some grain in their tiny cage I cringed at the pathetic start to what I had hoped would be such a great era in our not-quite-farming lives. They were sitting on top of each other. There was nowhere for them to go. I had inherited my very own battery farm and I prayed that this damned Penthouse be easier to assemble than it was to obtain… if it ever arrived.
Friday came, and with it came playgroup. Eight children and mothers out on the front deck and, WOWEEE!, a truck arrived. The enormous woman who tumbled out of the truck made no mystery of the fact that she was pissed off. Someone had put a rocket up her and she was downright scary. So when she unloaded not one, but two chicken house boxes, I didn’t say a word – how the fuck did I end up with ONE AND A HALF BLOODY CHICKEN HOUSES?!
This was a question that the supplier could also not answer and he immediately began searching for the other poor sod who was waiting on half a Penthouse! (The other half of the second house arrived four weeks later in another extremely badly damaged box and my parents took possession of Penthouse II).
Our ‘Chicky-Girls’ (as LL calls them), have been moved twice since, we’ve had a dozen escapes into the neighbour’s yard and one lock out (that saw me trying to pluck them off the chicken house roof in the pitch black with Mr D’s head torch falling down over my eyes). They won’t sleep in the pen if there’s too much shit on the floor and they are tortured by the mere sound of LL’s voice, knowing that ‘the chaser’ is on approach. All in all, they are precious little ladies.
We decided to name them after the various chicken dishes they would become should they not lay enough eggs – you know, instilling a sense of duty though intimidation and fear, dictatorial style. But Babs (Ke-), Barb (-eque), Butter (Indian-style), Nugget (Mc-), Noodle (-soup) and Henny Penny have called our bluff. So now the conundrum is playing on my vegetarian mind – how long do we let them laugh before Mr D arranges for them to mysteriously disappear? How long do we feed, house, protect and nurture them before they have to pay board or move out? I fear I am being mocked by my hens – they are having the last, longest and loudest laugh at the expense of Old Mrs MacDonald… but they’d better watch their feathery little behinds!