Filthy Lucre and the Lost Art of Chicken Herding

Filthy Lucre and the Lost Art of Chicken Herding

For as long as I can remember, I’ve liked money. To be more specific, I’ve liked being given money. Now of course, everyone likes being handed cash. Unless you’re Richard Pryor in Brewster’s Millions, there aren’t many people who would say “oh no, I’ve actually been trying to get rid of a stack of fifties for bloody days. Can’t seem to give it away, mate. Pray keep your money, for I need it not.”


Unfortunately, I’ve done some fairly embarrassing things to get my hands on money. At the tender age of 15, an application for a shelf-stacking job at Iceland Frozen Foods was rejected for my being under age. Apparently they had a policy of not employing child labour (novel, but it was the 80s). Not to be thwarted, at the more mature age of 17 I was employed by a nightclub to collect glasses in my hometown of Middlesbrough. No one explained to me, a slender and naive young lad with nice legs and clad only in a pair of tight fitting black shorts, a skin-tight Bacardi t-shirt and a bow-tie, of the dangers inherent in bending over to collect glasses from tables surrounded by drunken middle-aged women who really should have known better. But, I endured because of an unquenchable thirst for the filthy lucre. Even though my arse still involuntarily clenches when I hear a drunken female cackle and screech right behind me and I was paid beneath minimum wage, at least it was in cash.

At 19 I was employed by Swervey Mervey, the landlord of the Stainton Inn pub who was less careful with his hands than a newly formed cadre of Dramatic Arts undergrads with a Twister board, a bottle of baby oil and way too much home-brewed sherry. Mervyn was particularly swervy when a few of the better-looking barmaids were on duty but thankfully never required me to don the Bacardi t-shirt or be swerved. And as with the nightclub owner, his redeeming characteristic was a habit of paying in cash, no questions asked. He even put it in a tidy brown envelope. In an electronic age when I rarely even see my wages anymore, being handed an envelope with the reassuring pad of rolled-up promisory notes is very special my friends.

So, I think you can agree that my passion for being given money transcends temporary discomfort, which is why it’s baffling to many people that I chose to start a hobby farm. I mean, there aren’t many organic farmers driving Mercs and quaffing 20 year old single malts while they count the stacks of cash they’ve just made from selling pasture-raised chicken. Of course I might be wrong. I have an Aston Martin DB1390 convertible tractor after all and I worked out how to get it into fourth gear this summer.

Alas though, after experimenting for the past year, I’ve come to the conclusion that there is money in farming but unfortunately all of it is pouring outwards. So far we must have dropped about $20,000 into farm infrastructure, machinery and livestock…and we still don’t have a barn or fenced pastures. As the missus likes to remark, that’s an awful lot of trips to the farmers market.

ImageBut today we actually made some cash and it was a triumphant moment. Our chicken flock has grown significantly from last year when we had a meagre four birds, one of whom was Custard the Cockerel who limped whenever anyone was watching. The flock peaked in the summer at around 60 and if you count the meat birds, was closer to 120. Sure, we made some money selling those broilers and our pigs, but in all honesty that cash had all already been spent on purchasing them, building their housing, fences, feed and herbal medicine not to mention the astronomical butchery fees. But I digress. Today we made some real cash by selling our surplus laying birds and “downsizing” for the winter.

We got most of the girls we sold for free in the spring from a neighbour who was going on an extended vacation and had planned to slaughter them all. We also offloaded ten of the disappointing Barred Plymouth Rocks we raised from day-old chicks (I should have realised that nothing good ever came out of Plymouth…perhaps there is some truth after all to the rumours that it was originally settled by wandering French garlic farmers in 1973 only to be targeted by an influx of out-of-work itinerant Belgians in the great circus performer migration of the early 80s).

Our new cockerel wasn’t too pleased with these outbound transitions. I think he was ok with the first batch of 5 Rocks leaving just over a week ago. After all, he still had over 50 girls to pleasure. But when I used my secret powers of chicken herding and Jedi mind control to separate 10 of the reds into a holding pen, things went downhill fast. I think he was partial to a bit of the older red sexlink because after they went and I’d claimed another five Rocks this afternoon, he looked ready for murder. When I took a further 3 reds this evening, clearly enough was fucking enough and he did the side shuffle thing at me. I swear could see him calculating the trajectory for a raptor strike at my face. If I hear a tapping at the window tonight with the muffled words “knock knock, motherfucker”, for sure I’m not opening the door to see who it is.

But even should he somehow manage to beak his way past the guard dogs and slumbering children without alerting anyone to his presence, I’m sure after a cup of tea and the chance to calm down I’m hoping he’ll accept that a big stack of cash buys a lot of pellets and a fresh batch of nubile young reds when the spring finally arrives.

It’s just such a travesty that my novice blunder with the tractor, a meteorite and the bush hog last week, plus our UV water purification bulb expiring yesterday, has wiped out what profit we made. But then, he doesn’t need to know that. For now at least, I have a stack of cash to keep us happy.

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