More Henducation: Chook-Lit Part Three

28 January 2016 Fiona Scott-Norman

More Henducation: Chook-Lit Part Three

Photograph courtesy of istock

WAS IT ONLY three columns back that I was writing about my hilarious and much loved flock of chickens: their kooky antics, how adorable they are and, by inference, how great I am to have such hilarious and endearing chooks? Well, they’re dead now. Here are the lessons learned:

Building a Fox-Proof Coop Is Only Efficacious if the Chickens Are Inside It
We had a systems error. I thought my sweetie, Greg, had shut them away; he thought I’d shut them away. You can see where this is going. The gals spent the night in the garden, huddled under a plant in the corner. In the morning, nothing remained of Betty, Missus and Shirley except wind-fluttered feathers, and a bantam-sized hole in our hearts.

Your Least Favourite Chicken Will Survive
Look. It’s not that I dislike Laverne. She’s a fellow ginger, after all. But when a chicken is neurotic to the point of hysteria, and mistrustful no matter how often you thrust tasty treats her way and don’t squash her into a tiny wire cage, it’s hard to move beyond ‘meh’ on the emotional clapometer. Laverne laid eggs and made up the numbers. And, in the butter-side-down way that life pans out, she’s our lone survivor.

A friend once shared that when her young son got cancer, the worst part was that he was her ‘favourite’. “I love them all. I mean, obviously,” she said, over her third pinot. “But he’s the golden one. And I find myself wishing it was one of the others.”

Chickens Ain’t Chickens
Laverne on her own is no flock. We needed to ‘farmer up’ and restock, even though we were still grieving. The logic went like this: Missus and Betty were awesome, Missus and Betty were Australorp bantams = let’s get more Australorp bantams. The only place we could find any was two hours away, at what turned out to be a scrappy farm nestled in an industrial estate.

The hens were much younger than we thought. Nine weeks. And, somehow, a different strain to Missus and Betty. Instead of being chubby, fluffy, bolshie and bumptious, they were long, elegant and shy. Their big black eyes loomed in their tiny faces, and they huddled together, alarmed but powerless, like tragic heroines in a period drama, about to be married off to an oligarch old enough to be their grandfather. All they needed were bonnets and tiny handkerchiefs to clasp to their breasts.

But we had driven two hours to get them, so what are you gonna do?

Surviving a Traumatic Event Doesn’t Necessarily Make You a Nicer Chicken
For the first few days, post-massacre, Laverne was completely discombobulated. Trauma, for sure, and chooks are flock creatures; they don’t do well on their own. A follower from way back and accustomed to being at the bottom of the pecking order, Laverne was stymied by having no one to follow. She called for the others, making strange, sad noises.

But 10 days of sweet corn to herself gave Laverne confidence and a certain tilt to her hat. This, you could see her thinking, is alright. Then we added the bantams, Norah and Bunty. A light bulb went off over Laverne’s head as she realised she was now top dog, and she laid into the new girls like she was running a gulag.

It transpires that Laverne’s rapid rise through the ranks has given her nothing in the way of empathy, and as head chook she makes a good sociopath. Does she lead the way out of the coop in the morning? Does she show Bunty and Norah where the food is? As senior hen, does she lead the flock to range freely in the garden? Does she buggery bollocks.

She stands there like a great idea-less lump, and then randomly attacks anyone who makes a move for the water or seeds.

Because Laverne’s leadership qualities begin and end with bullying, nothing happens. The girls just stand around, and then they stand around some more.

“What do you wanna do?”

“I dunno. What do you wanna do?”

“I dunno”.

It’s Waiting for Godot, with chickens.

You Can’t Just Replace a Flock
RIP, Missus, Betty and Shirley. Sadly missed.

Poor little flockers.

» For virtually more FSN, visit or follow her on Twitter @FScottNorman.

This article first appeared in Ed#455 of The Big Issue