Thursday, March 1, 2007

Hen pecked

Just recently I read someone writing about "the maternal clucking of hens", waxing sentimental on the way a few fowl can add to the suburban idyll. And indeed, not so long ago I believed this myself. I believed they were gentle creatures, humbly accepting all scraps from the kitchen and offering guilt-free eggs in return. Then we actually got some chooks. And now I say 'bah humbug' to such fairy tales. Our chooks are the bane of our lives.

They are fussy. They are loud. They are ungrateful and uppity. Our chooks turn away from anything that we ourselves would not eat. Yes, they'll eat some greens but only a limited selection. Kindly woman that I am, each day I trek to the green grocer and buy something, even though I rarely need anything, so that I can ask for a box of scraps without feeling awkward. If the bearded guy from round the corner has already snaffled the good stuff for his guniea pigs I tramp the streets and wooded areas with my big bag, collecting clover and thistles from the verges. This all takes time and can chip away at my dignity and I get not a cluck of thanks.

More embarrasisngly, our chooks are loud, louder than barking dogs. We are waiting for the neighbours to complain to the Council. We wake to their demands for food, we have breakfast to their demands for MORE FOOD. We garden to their complaints about their sub-standard accommodation and their demands for time in the garden and MORE FOOD NOW. We let them out to 'free range', i.e., dig up the flower beds and make sorties on the veggie gardens, and they sit under the kitchen window demanding, yes, MORE FOOD. We dine to their general lament on our awfulness as chook owners. We fall to sleep dreaming of a day when we will be free.



The worst offender is Big Black Chook, the leader of the pack (consisting of Little Black Chook, Nice Brown Chook, Clucky Chook and Other Brown Chook). She is part Mae West, all brassy and bold, leading with an improbably large bust, and part surly teenager, self-obsessed and clinging to the moral high ground. She follows us around, voicing her complaints, until I cry or Al swears (then swears again because he swore in front of the children) and we retreat into the house to debate, yet again, whether the fabulous eggs are worth the heart ache, dustbowl garden and possible hatred of the neighbours.

Sometimes, I swear, if my axe were sharper and my heart colder, there'd be chicken noodle soup for tea.

Eating from the garden: eggs from the girls for breakfast, and included in honey biscuits (baked with Lu); corn for lunch; cherry tomatoes and basil in a pasta sauce with char grilled capsicum and cream; apples for snacks.

4 comments:

VictoriaE said...

That is so funny! Chooks are worth all the fuss purely for the entertainment they provide I reckon. We swap eggs with our neighbours on both sides for their vegies and home made salami. They all love the eggs so much they dont complain about anything, even when we had a very noisy rooster, and even when a wild goat lived in our backyard (against regulations, in the very middle of town, !!).

Em said...

I love this post. My mother has chooks and the kids have a grand time searching for the eggs and listening to their clucking.

Kris said...

Ah, well I'd love my hens more if they paved the way to salami. But we've got a share house of car-obsessed boys on one side and nubile young girls on the other; not much good for produce but even more entertainment than the chooks. But the hormonal fug! It's worse than the smog in winter ...

Janet said...

I used to keep chooks back in the nineties when a vegetatarian friend gave me the roosters from his hens. And then showed me how to do the business. (He was a farm boy skilled in such matters) It was the best chicken I have ever tasted. Down the track I decided to get some hens for eggs too, but foxes got them. Then we had the neighbours complain about an old rooster and I gave up. It doesn't sound like your neighbours are the complaining types? But I guess I was trying to say (as inoffensively as possible), homegrown chicken is mighty good if you decide the eggs aren't worth it... But then again they're mighty fine lookin chooks...