Free and easy

Free and easy

OK people. It’s been forever since I wrote, so I’m merging two posts into one monstrously long one. You may need a comfort break around the paragraph about druidic rituals. Stretch your legs, that kind of thing. So, here goes:

Anyone that knows me will attest that I’m not a man to say no to something free. Especially when the freebie is 30 laying chickens, delivered in the back of a truck no questions asked and they’re able to pay for themselves in eggs. So when our neighbour said they are going to Scandinavia for a couple of months and offered us his flock of gently used Red Sexlinks, then obviously I said yes.

There are many occasions in my life when saying “Yes” too quickly has, quite frankly, bit me in the arse. For example, the time I said “Yes” to attempting a black diamond run on my first week in the Alps after being taught to ski for only a dozen or so hours on Sheffield’s rather embarrassing dry slopes. That didn’t work out too well. Hurtling uncontrollably downhill clipping endless mogul bumps like a scooter in a school zone while screaming “shit shit shit shit shit ohhhh shit!” is in no way elegant.

Or the time I said “Yes” to my school swimming instructor when he asked if anyone knew the Butterfly and I ended up competing in a race and coming in last by such a length that I got a standing ovation. I think everyone was just relieved to discover it only looked like I was drowning. Or when I said “Yes” to my CDT teacher when he braved my zeal to ask if I was really, really sure about the Expandable Foldable Portable Dog Basket. With hindsight, I now understand that his tone of awe was more incredulousness than amazement.


So it was no surprise when these thirty “free’ chickens ended up biting. The first problem was, we had no house and no fencing for them. The house was fairly easy to solve by evicting our four remaining original chicks from the ridiculously large Celestial Coop and relocating them into the newly dubbed “Retirement Condo”. That they’ve survived for nearly a year despite our best attempts to decapitate, strangle, freeze and scare them, I think more than earns an early retirement. Just like any other retirement village, we cordoned off a private pasture complete with stunning views of the pond, forest and fields. They seemed to like it and so the next job was to move the main coop into the field next to them (so they could see what they used to have).

That was a harder job since it was a bit damp for the tractor and the Celestial Coop doesn’t exactly have the natural poise and balance of Anna Pavlova. It’s more of a Barry White Lurve Abode, i.e. it’s meant to be kept horizontal at all times, has it’s own gravity well and plays merry hell with the bale spears on my tractor.

Yet despite the challenges, I managed to get it in place with only a couple of new holes in the walls. Then came the fencing. That stuff isn’t cheap! We were rushing because I had to leave for a conference in Las Vegas and so I opted for post spikes instead of digging the 3′ deep holes. Now, I don’t know how I manage it, but I have an unerring knack for finding subterranean boulders. Not just your average stones, I mean Stonehenge-esque dolmens handily located about 2 foot underground. Not deep enough to avoid the spikes, but just enough to make it an utter bitch to prize the things out again. I swear if there was ever a resurgence in the popularity of druidic ceremonies or a sudden demand for ritualistic sacrificial altars, my skill for finding boulders would make me a mint.

Anyway, so given our fields apparently have more boulders than the Andes, combined with the challenge of holding a 100′ roll of welded wire fencing steady while simultaneously trying to not hammer staples into my own hand, the finished fence isn’t exactly brilliant. It wobbles in a moderate breeze and certainly wouldn’t stop a determined Mexican at the US Border. But it does the job which at the end of the day, is good enough for now. The “free” chickens of course managed to escape almost immediately through the old fence I’d incorporated on one side to cut down on costs. Although I captured the rebel leader, the damage was done and her followers flapped merrily in ever increasing numbers into the adjacent pig pasture, tripping the electric fence and having great fun doing it.

Foolishly I decided to try leaving the fence switched off, thinking that the pigs had learned not to touch it and wouldn’t test it again at least until I managed to collapse Charlie Tunnel and prevent the Rebel Chickens from escaping. That apparently was the wrong decision. Pigs are clever beasts and quickly discovered that the lines weren’t live. They then decided to eat through the fence in order to make it that bit easier for the chickens to join them. However, having broken the barrier, they then realised how much fun it was to stomp about in the tilled field just outside their pasture.

But, channelling the farming equivalent of Greyskull, I invoked the power of The Bucket to save us. Two scoops of feed into it, a good rattle around and the pigs were back in the field. I repaired most of the fence and decided to take the lowest electric wire out since it’s deep into the weeds now anyway. Unfortunately, I made a discovery of my own: it’s best to turn off the power before working on the fence because 13,000 volts smarts when it goes through you. However on the bright side, my jolt shorted it again which eliminated the need to walk to the house to turn off the power which is probably just as well because I couldn’t feel my left foot for a while.

Eventually I got the fence repaired, Charlie Tunnel closed and decided to introduce the two flocks. Custard, our remaining rooster, thought Christmas had come early. With thirty new ladies to pounce on he was in Avian Nirvana. I swear he was playing the sympathy shag card because his limp got worse within moments of meeting his new harem. Unfortunately for Custard, the fun didn’t last. Like Kanye West, he got way too much swagger way too fast and attacked our 3 year old boy twice which earned him a rather messy beheading (the chicken, not Kanye, which would have been technically tricky to achieve with my little hatchet).

The loss of the remaining rooster has had a rather surprising effect on the ladies. I thought they’d be spending their days gossiping and fashioning rudimentary Prada handbags from straw and twigs. Instead, they’ve opted to get some hardcore hen-on-hen action going on. Like most blokes, I was naturally fascinated and took notes. After observing a few lesbian chicken sessions this week, my conclusion is that the mounting hen often looks confused with her position, but not half as startled as the one underneath. Inevitably they part with an uncomfortable shuffle and an agreement that it was just a college experiment, so let’s promise not to tell anyone. I’m still undecided who was more disappointed, them or me.

Sometime during all this fun I turned 40 years old, my parents and sister-not-in-law came for a visit and we took delivery of 2 new hives of bees! I’ll save that for the next post which I promise will be soon-ish. Suffice to say, my new name is Hive Master Funk, the Undisputed Lord of the Hive. Even after installing them, my lifetime absence of bee stings remains unbroken which must prove it.

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