I WASN’T going to get any more chickens last year. I had a dozen or so. They were happy, settled and used to each other. But my neighbour Annette had more than 60 chicks hatch in the summer and when she asked me to take eight of them, all around a week old and whose mums didn’t want to care for them, I couldn’t resist.
I kept them in a cage on the terrace, warm and comfy under a heat lamp and they proved easy to keep an eye on. I watched The Lucky Eight, as we call them, on account of the fact that they will only ever be pets, develop before moving into a baby pen in the garden where they could run about, but be safe from predators and my other birds — ducks and geese as well as chickens.
When this batch of newbies were big enough, I let them go into a temporary intermediate pen where they could get through the fence holes which the bigger birds couldn’t. This meant that they could escape to their safe place if the pecking got too much.
This lot, though, were pretty feisty and they stuck together. Well, they did at first. It turned out that two of the eight are boys. Best mates at first, they have now become rivals for love.
Brad Pitt is a gorgeous looking boy with golden feathers running down his back. George Clooney isn’t quite as pretty, but he’s very handsome and has a twinkle in his eye. The boss of the pen is Gregory Peck, an old hand at running the team and he has his girls sorted. He is not interested in the new girls at all. But Brad Pitt and George Clooney are at loggerheads over which of them will be the favourite. So far George Clooney is winning. When he crows, they come running over to him. However, when he’s busy foraging in the garden or under the hedges, Brad Pitt sneakily calls to them and the fickle females run after him.
As a result, George Clooney will not let Brad Pitt eat at feeding time. This has led to an unusual episode of entente-cordiale in the goose pen. My four geese are not friendly to anyone. They honk and run away as soon as they see me come out of the kitchen door into the garden. I’ve had them for several years, nurse them when they’re sick, feed and water them daily, but it doesn’t matter what I do — they are never happy. I wish they were like