Now I love chickens as much as the next man. Not in a creepy way; I don’t have knitwear with pictures of chickens on them or even any amusing chicken ornaments. But as you know, I’ve put a lot of effort into building the Celestial Coop and optional run, so much so that it’s starting to resemble Gormenghast.
That’s ok because the Ladies Who Lay have been delivering the goods. Unfortunately and with great sadness, I have to say that one of them has Turned Bad.
I understand why and of course I’m sympathetic. Every one of them has come from a broken home. They’ve had their beaks trimmed so they have a hint of platypus duck to them and that can’t be easy to live with. Some bastard keeps nicking their eggs and then locking them inside when all they want to do is be outside pulling up the grass. However, three of them have risen above those tough beginnings and have grown into fine, compassionate lady fowl.
The fourth, let’s affectionately call her “B” after her namesake of Prisoner Cell Block H fame, is still working through some issues. She’s moody and carrying a little extra weight over her sister chickens. She’s loud-beaked and likes to be first into everywhere. If she were a person, I could imagine an extensive wardrobe of dungarees and numerous headscarves with offensive prints. But without a doubt, she’s the top lady. The Big Clucker With A Grudge.
In hindsight, placing our three little chickens into that dysfunctional family was an error. Harvey, Custard and Sunshine had, up to then, led a fairly idyllic life. Plenty of organic food, as much wood shavings as they could kick and scratch across the floor. No cleaning up and round-the-clock protection from cats and other 2 year old predator boys. In that environment, Harvey was growing into a loveable yet rebellious teenager, his cock-swagger developing nicely like any other east-London wide-boy.
But then he met B and the reign of terror began almost immediately. Her mad unblinking eye barely left him as we carefully introduced the two little flocks. In fairness to Harvey, she’s three times bigger than him and has very little in the way of a sense of humour. So I didn’t hold it against him when he hid behind the bale of straw with Custard and Sunshine. I mean, if I met a mad chicken that was three times my size and looked like she wanted to eat me, I’d probably look for a handy place to hide too.
We were careful for the first few days to never leave the two flocks together alone even though I kept making novice statements like:
“Ah, they’ll work it out.”
“They have to be let out sooner or later.”
“They’re fairly stupid, they’ll probably not even notice them.”
We confined the chicks to the Celestial Coop during the days and the Ladies were booted into the Run. Perhaps that led to some bad feeling, who knows? But as I kept saying, “sooner or later” they had to meet and of course the first to explore the Run was Harvey. Unfortunately, while she is certainly not a Mensa candidate, B did notice him.
There’s no other way to explain what happened next, except to say Harvey got bitch slapped. He took ten of the best, trousers down. B gave him a spanking he’s unlikely to forget and showed about as much mercy as Arnie in The Terminator.
She pecked his head until the skin burst open on his neck. You’d think that would have been enough, but no. B proceed to peck until the skin peeled away to expose the whole back of his neck. The pain must have been excruciating. I found him squeezed up against the Run’s door. His head was tucked so far under his body to hide from the assault that at first I thought she’d eaten it.
Honestly, I thought he might have been better off dead because the wound wasn’t something I could see him surviving. After I got him home, Emma bathed it, cradled him for a few hours and then slathered antiseptic cream on it.
We don’t have much in the way of private medical coverage here, but after surviving that first night, Emma has done her best to make sure Harvey gets the full BUPA treatment. He has a private room with full-height window, gets his backside cleaned twice daily of any chickeny mess, has fresh food and water hand-delivered on saucers and is positioned in the kitchen so he doesn’t get lonely. Each evening he gets to lay on a towel on the sofa and watch TV for an hour. He’s even had a boiled egg which — before you start complaining about us turning him into a cannibal or creating a living incubator for Mad Avian Disease — we made sure came from B so that’s fair justice to my mind.
All in all, Harvey is doing alright out of his misfortune. Certainly better than his chicken sisters who are now in secure confinement inside the Celestial Coop, having to watch in terror as B paces the perimeter of their cage, ceaselessly searching for some chink in the defences.
The situation can’t continue. So, I’m starting Charlie Ark tomorrow. It’ll be a bit like a minimum security prison. Not so big and imposing as the Celestial Coop. A snug portable home for three small chickens where they can live free from the terror of B and her inexplicable ability to make her face disappear to avoid photos.