I am no novice at looking after hens. I have two sets of friends who own them and I have looked after them (the chickens, not the friends) whilst they (the friends, not the chickens) have been away on holiday.
Note to self: what is difference between a chicken and a hen?
So I already knew they were cunning, tricky characters; not as evil as our monstrous pet cat but nevertheless are out to get me at any available opportunity.
It was going to be an easy task: just a couple of days and they should have had enough food and water that I would not have to go in their coop. However as the hot weather was continuing I thought it best to change the water as it was looking low.
Needless to say the water holder is a complex fangled thing which always takes me longer to faff around with than I anticipate. So I went in the coop which is human height, and so not a squeeze. Hens were restless and making a fuss around me. I had some difficulty getting the water thing off its hook. As I was doing so I did not notice that a deathly silence had befallen my surroundings. It was only as I turned to open the door that I saw the door was open. And four chickens in the garden.
I have to say that I did stay calm and did not panic. What I could have done without, though, was the audience of neighbours in the garden next door, trying and failing to be pretending not to watch me. I chased three little blighters (the hens, not the neighbours) around the garden. They don’t move that fast but are quite good a dodging you and their beady little eyes are fixed on you at all times. Fortunately they let me pick them up without fuss and I got three back in with less problem than I imagined. I went to get the last one…..NO CHICKEN. ANYWHERE. TO BE SEEN.
Now dear Reader it was my time to panic. Inwardly panic, admittedly, due to the neighbouring spectators. I looked everywhere. Do I swallow my pride and ask for help? Why wasn’t it in their garden? It was never going to come back and be eaten by foxes and the parents would have to tell the children and it would ruin their lives and it was all my fault. And it was really hot and I was now sweating like the proverbial other farmyard animal. I texted my friends saying I had lost a hen and was having a breakdown and with a heavy heart I plodded back to the house.
I went into the kitchen, only to find an unhappy cat watching a hen eating all the food out of the cat bowl. The little bugger had eaten the wet cat food and scattered the dry biscuits everywhere over the kitchen floor. I texted my friends quickly, getting replies from them along the lines of “that is pretty much our life”, “that’s one of the reasons the cat is such a bag of nerves” and “I love your messages: it’s like watching someone else live exactly my life.”
So what I find out, when they get back, is that they do let the chickens out periodically, and I needn’t have worried about that. I don’t know why it has never occurred to me that they wouldn’t. And also that every time they let them out, the hens make a run for the kitchen. I had been in the unusual situation of them not all doing this the second they were out, and that only one of them eventually bothered to get to the kitchen.
It was all made worth it by my friends presenting me with a packet of biscuits from their holiday as a thank you accompanied by the words, “they aren’t very nice when you first eat them, but they get better.”
If you are reading this, my dear friends: it’s the thought that counts.