Sunday, October 31, 2010

What quiet life in the country?

Catching our rooster that had been living next door didn’t fix the problem of the feral bantams. The two girls, with their clipped wings, had been leaping the fence to head for greener pastures. We hadn’t seen one around for a while and assumed that she had jumped one fence too many, ending up in a yard with an unfriendly dog. Last week she reappeared, fifteen babies in tow, all happily jumping backwards and forwards through the wire to have a drink of water in our pen.
The neighbours hadn’t mention the sudden explosion of numbers in their yard but their grass was two foot high since myxamatosis kicked in and killed all the rabbits that lived in the warren under their shed and used to keep the grass and everyone elses vegetables, trimmed.   I came home during the week to find they had whipper snipped their jungle. No sign of the feathered family. I heaved a evil secret sigh of relief. (We had agreed NO baby chickens this year. Our girls are so well treated they never die although we do eat the young boys and we reached our feathery limits in the Chook Palace last year.)
We awoke the next morning to find the renegade and  eleven of  her babies had travelled though two fences to end up in the veggie garden. All the plants that had been lovingly tucked into beds of manure and hay were now bare rooted, mulch flung everywhere. Lady (our dachshund) managed to kill a baby and then later grabbed the mother around the neck so the dogs were forced to spend the rest of the day locked in the house while the chickens roamed free.
At dusk, we spotted them all settled down close to the other chickens and with great stealth and much squawking (some of it from Amita screaming, get her! Get her!) Taking her to the front pen we chased the babies through the wire into the main chicken run where everyone had got out of bed to see what the noise was all about. On the way we managed to clip one wing down as far as we dared. The neighbour was soon out to see who was being murdered as the mother screeched for her babies while they headed off to hide in a tangle of jasmine next door. It was dark by the time I had herded them through the fence to mum and we settled down to a few wines to settle our nerves.
Next morning we were greeted by the whole family happily chirping...OUTSIDE OUR BEDROOM WINDOW! The front garden was looking a mess; the scratching had been going on since dawn. Herding them back in the pen, we barricaded the chicken wire with planks, filled in the excavations under the gate and threw in lots of yummy things for them to eat. They were out in minutes.
By the second morning out of their ‘safe’ pen AGAIN, they had knocked over pot plants, dug out some bromeliads, destroyed the ground covers and shat all over the verandah. Enough!  In my nightie, sitting in the dirt, I sewed a piece of shade cloth to the fence and the gate to a height of about 60cm, chased them all in again and went off to work.
When I got home, there they all were again, living the life of Riley in the FRONT GARDEN. This was war! I let the dog out to help me, again with sneaky evil intent. She happily ran off into the ferns to herd them. The next few minutes were pandemonium...the mother stood up to  the dog who ended up  howling, on her back trying to surrender to the bantam who  was attacking her in a frenzy of beak and claws. I rescued the dog, herded the chickens inside, shovelled soil up against the bottom of the shade cloth, returned the planks and propped them up with pot plants.
This morning we were greeted by mum and four babies, outside the window AGAIN. Things were looking least the remaining six were still in the pen. No, by breakfast time another two had figured out how to escape.  Amita to the rescue, a drop cloth is now draped over the whole lot and is scarily blowing in the breeze. I have swept, raked and watered and generally tidied up the garden. Some of them are going to a new home today so I want them all contained so we can catch them. They are going to another neighbour two doors away who apparently took one to the vet to get a bandage for its sore leg!
I only hope they stay there.
I’m going away for a week without chickens, dogs or men...I've had enough of the quiet life!  

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