The Vault: Hip Chicks

23 July 2013 Fiona Scott-Norman

The Vault: Hip Chicks

Illustration by Greg Bakes; original photo by Miles Standish

Fiona Scott-Norman, Ed#430, April 2013

It’s finally happened. I am on trend. No, not for being a tall, mouthy bint of a certain age. That train is still to leave the station. There’s only room for so many of us, and I have to wait for Sonia Kruger and Rhonda Burchmore to meet with a baling accident. 

It’s the chickens, apparently. I have chooks in my backyard (not a euphemism) and if I were any more ‘au courant’ I’d be wearing a Top Shop lurex sheath as I designed my iPhone app. Like a herd of migrating buffalo, instinctively lumbering in the same direction, inner-city hipsters, greenies and fans of Felicity Kendal in The Good Life are fussing over coop size and the relative merits of the ISA Brown versus the Light Sussex. 

Given that you, my readers, are switched on and attractive, the chances are you’re contemplating chickens. As the proud wrangler of three girls – bantams – aka Missus, Stevie and Beatrice, I’m now quite the authoritah. So I am well placed to explain what the flock to expect. 

1. Naming them is brilliant. Pick a theme – women in literature, saints, royals, movie stars, divas, members of your family who won’t stop squawking – and go for it. I was dead set on a flock of feminist icons (Germaine, Gertrude, Virginia, Helen Razer), but one of my girls came pre-named Marilyn, and she looked like a Marilyn, so that was the end of that.

Unfortunately for Marilyn, a perky little Australorp egg-laying machine, she was destined like her namesake to live her life like a candle in the wind. She expired early and mysteriously in a soft clump of limp feathers. This brings me to my second point…

2. They will die. It’s an occupational hazard for chickens. This is why you need to buy at least three. On the one hand, chooks are hardy little omnivores descended from dinosaurs. On the other, they can turn up their toes on a dime, leaving little in the way of hard evidence. All chicken sickness presents in much the same way – a temperature and runny poo – and by the time you’ve noticed they’re flagging, it’s curtains. Then, when you sadly post the death on Facebook, your friends will make inappropriate jokes about recipes for fricassee or being invited over for a barbecue until you tell them to back off she was like a member of the family.

3. There is hardly anything more adorable than an upskirt view of a chicken’s bottom. 

4. There really is a pecking order. No matter how much space, food, freedom and good times they have at their disposal, one of them will be harassed, herded away from the tasty treats, and generally treated like the kid at school with glasses, no social skills, and a weird skin condition. In my flock, that’s Beatrice – which is why she has been named after the lesser royal.

5. Watching them run towards you is endlessly entertaining. Their legs are set wide apart, and they move like they’re trying to keep saggy wet bathers out of their crevices. 

6. You cannot think about what the girls eat when you’re tucking into their tasty, tasty eggs. Yes, there’s grain and greens, but their preference is for whatever flies, slithers and burrows. I recently performed at Port Fairy during a plague of crickets, and we filled a quarter of a bucket to bring home. The girls pretty much lost their minds. 

7. All you hear when you’re buying chooks is ‘foxes, foxes, foxes’. You know how some women, on hearing you’re pregnant, will tell you how they nearly bled to death and were in labour for 38 hours? Chicken owners all have a story about the fox that ripped their girls to shreds in a gory rampage. Build a fox-proof run. Build a fox-proof run. Build a fox-proof run.

8. There’s a lot of poo. Fortunately, in gardening circles, it is considered ‘black gold’. 

9. The only downside is that friends, convinced they are being arch and clever, give you chicken-themed gifts. So far I’ve been given a chicken calendar, eggcups and cosies, one of those wooden pecking-chickens-on-a-bat toys of yesteryear, a Fifty Shades of Grey chicken parody (don’t ask) and, most alarmingly, a two-foot high metal chicken sculpture. I am a bee’s dick from away from becoming the crazy chicken lady and I only have three bantams.

10. They’re very loveable. And you can’t get an app for that. 

Fiona Scott-Norman is a Big Issue columnist. You can follow her on Twitter @fscottnorman.