Chicken Crazy

Martin Gur­don has a fond­ness for an an­cient jacket when on chicken du­ties

Your Chickens - - Contents - Martin Gur­don

It’s a gar­ment that re­ally should have been binned years ago

We call it ‘the tent,’ and it’s a gar­ment that re­ally should have been binned years ago. This is the jacket I use when deal­ing with the chick­ens, and it must be about 34 years old.

It started life as one of those hefty, weather re­sis­tant uber-out­door coats, with deep pock­ets into which cold hands can be thrust and the sort of hood that would make an ex­cel­lent tent for an elf.

My dad bought this dark green gar­ment when he lived on a house­boat on the River Thames in the mid 1980s. It cer­tainly kept him warm on win­ter morn­ings as he shifted icy Calor gas bot­tles.

When I came to stay I would of­ten bor­row it. The thing was about eight years old when I bor­rowed it again and some­how didn’t give it back. In the near quar­ter cen­tury since, both the tent and I have aged, but it is dif­fi­cult to say which is the worse for wear.

The bot­tom of one of the jacket pock­ets has com­pletely van­ished and its ex­te­rior fab­ric has grown thin and por­ous, al­low­ing great tufts of white lin­ing to emerge from the ever-in­creas­ing num­ber of holes. From a dis­tance I look like a stuffed toy that’s been se­ri­ously mauled by a large dog.

The tent is no longer en­tirely wa­ter­proof. Rain now finds its way through gaps in the lin­ing and down the back of my neck, thanks to a dearth of pop fas­ten­ers to hold the hood in place. If I brush against gar­den bushes on my way to clean out the hens, lit­tle bits of white lin­ing are left to flut­ter on leaf­less branches. My wife says it’s easy to see where I’ve been in the gar­den be­cause I leave a fluffy trail be­hind.

Ra­tio­nally, I should have re­placed the tent with an­other old jacket a decade ago, but I’ve de­vel­oped a rather ir­ra­tional fond­ness for this hideous ob­ject. When the sleeves drop off and the lin­ing fi­nally shreds it will have to go but, although my wife doesn’t en­tirely agree, I don’t think we’ve quite reached that point yet.

I was wear­ing the tent as I went to in­spect the dam­age caused by re­cent high winds. Gales have a habit of blow­ing down our fence pan­els, which would al­low our free-range hens to es­cape, but this time fence and fowl stayed in place. How­ever, the chicken house that once con­tained Wonky the ban­tam, and which I’d planed to use again, was ly­ing on its back, roof torn from its hinges and smashed. It might be fix­able, but if not the thing is only good for fire­wood.

The gale also brought down the dove­cote in an area where our big hens of­ten like to for­age. For­tu­nately they were in bed at the time, or there might have been a chicken tragedy.

I’m pleased to say the re­cently re-built large chicken run where they roost sur­vived un­scathed.

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