Hen Party

Dora makes a bit of a racket first thing when the other two are still in the nesting box and I wonder if she gets a bit lonely. To entertain her, I put a mirror in the enclosure and she seemed quite taken with it.

I let her out of the enclosure early Monday morning and she kept me company while I finally tackled the weeds in the paving stones. She would peer into my face, and I wonder if she was looking at her reflection in my glasses. We did a darn good job. Now I can look out at the garden without seeing the work I need to do. I’ve left the little pansies which have self-seeded.

I heard a radio interview this week with a woman who keeps chooks. She said that the red or brown shavers are very sociable, will follow you around and can even be picked up for a cuddle. Apart from the cuddles, that sounds like Dora (aka Satay) and Betty (aka Butter). Popcorn, on the other hand, is a leghorn and they tend to be a bit stroppy and flighty. This sounds like her. At the moment she is broody, so I have to pick her up out of the nesting box to make sure she eats and drinks and runs around a bit. Today I resorted to blocking off the entrance so she couldn’t get back in – but she was persistent. Betty often gets in the nesting box with her and does her best to push her out – not aggressively, just gently. Perhaps she overheard my neighbour (who had brought them some garden greens and windfall apples) telling me that chooks can die of overheating and starvation if they nest too long.

Popcorn spent a lot of time, while in exile, perched on the garden seat.

Then, after a dust bath, she groomed herself on the outdoor chair beside me. She is plumper and more feathery than when she first arrived – they all are – and their feathers are quite amazing. Check out her shuttlecock tail feathers.

Her head seems almost to rotate as she preens. She has little fluffy ear tufts.

Meantime Betty, in tea-cosy pose, sat on the mat between us, drifting in and out of sleep.

She began to groom herself too, showing off the patterns and caramel tones of her feathers.

Dora took a look at my feet.

And I took a look at hers. Look at those toenails and how she balances on one alligator-skin foot while the other curves elegantly.

It was a very together time. Hence the title of this post.

What was Dora thinking as she inspected my feet? What would you put in a thought bubble above her head? E.g: “I can see the gin and tonic has gone straight to her feet” or, “This explains the qwerty keyboard”.

I'm the urban farmer, baby

As I clump about the place in my red band gumboots, smelling the farmyard smells chickens bring with them, I’m reminded of when I lived on a farm and a colleague commented that I was “playing at being a farmer”. I had numerous chooks and a goat and a large vegetable garden. A stray cat called by regularly. There were possums in the walnut tree at night. The furry beasts, with ghoulish red eyes, would screech and run along the verandah with hob-nail boots on, and I could hear rats behind the scrim walls of the old villa I rented.

Now, in my small city garden, as I toil in the service of the chooks, mixing up their mash at 6am, cleaning out the nesting box in the early afternoon, picking up their poop and burying it under the rhubarb or in the compost, fetching them greens and treats to vary their diet and marvelling at their quiet clucky chicken-ness, I feel a certain farmer-ish satisfaction.

Having solved their incursions into the garden by judicious use of the sprinkler, I am harvesting the fruits of my vegetable labours.

Home-grown tomatoes
Freshly-picked runner beans – no strings attached
Firm and squeaky courgettes. Just enough for a Carrot and Courgette Kugel.

And – drum roll, please – half a dozen eggs for a bacon and egg pie.

Bright yolks and firm shells