Spring finally feels like it’s just around the corner here. The past few days have been dry (hallelujah!) and sunny in the main – it’s beautiful and the overwhelming sensations are of relief and gratitude. It’s been extraordinarily wet this winter in Wales which makes caring for livestock much harder, the relentless wet on their backs and mud under their feet doesn’t do them any good and is generally just really depressing in the way that a crisp, cold winter isn’t.
The bright sunshine also shows up the smeary windows and dusty surfaces though so this morning I threw open my door and let the fresh air in whilst I did a spot of housework and washing. With the first load pegged out to dry on the line and the second in the machine I went upstairs to answer some emails. There are many things I love about having an “upside down house” with the living room upstairs and the bedrooms downstairs. One downside though is that when you have visitors you’re further away to answer the door so you get attuned to listening out for anyone calling (mostly around here people will open your door and call your name as soon as knock on it!)
I was aware of chicken noises as our bantams were clucking around the open front door and gradually it dawned on me that the chicken noises were quite close. So I went to look over the bannisters and sure enough as per local custom, I had some unexpected visitors who’d just walked right in and called for me!
I love our little bantams but they’re not house trained so I politely suggested to them they’d better go outside and came downstairs to show them the way out. They’d been led in by my favourite chicken Henrietta who does actually spend quite a bit of time around the yard and recently, in my mum’s house at night for her own safety as we’ve had something attacking her hen ark in the dark hours and we don’t mind that much if she pops in to say hello during the day either. She likes being with people so much that she brought all her young friends down for a visit though and they liked what they saw of my house – so they weren’t going to be evicted without a protest!
I’d assumed when I came into the kitchen that they’d run out of the door but no, they wanted to fully investigate whilst they had the chance and they hid behind the kitchen table whilst Marley and I tried to herd them back outside!
Eventually after chasing them round and round the table a few times with Marley hindering more than helping (being labrador he’s bred for retrieving birds not herding animals and it shows in a situation like this!) we engineered them towards the door. Although by this point they’d worked out that there was underfloor heating under their claws as well as sunshine on their backs so it took a while to stop them from sitting down to bask in the unaccustomed warmth.
I last saw them heading off outside and I went to empty the washing machine and put another load of sheets and towels in. When I came back all was quiet and a sulky Henrietta was sitting outside on the step which is fine; she often sits out there enjoying the sun. It was peaceful and quiet in the house but Marley was a bit suspicious, his keen sense of smell and hearing had picked up that there were chicken-y stowaways in the bathroom now. They’d sneaked back in when my back was turned!!!
I asked them to please get off the bath mat – as I mentioned before they aren’t house trained and whilst it’s one matter to clear little offerings off slate floors, it’s quite another matter to wash bath mats and I’d already got my final load of washing in and I had no intention of doing another! So the chickens obligingly hopped off the mat…
…and piled one by one into the shower! I contemplated turning it on to wash their feet as their fluffy foot feathers have got a bit muddy with the wet weather. But I didn’t – and they proved very stubborn to shift and so I had to get into the shower myself and pick them up one by one and put them outside the door. Whilst I was evicting the last chicken from the shower Marley rather unhelpfully stood in the way of the exit and so the rest of the flock took the chance and I saw them nipping into my bedroom next door.
I did manage to finally catch them all and carrying the two ringleaders, one in each hand, I managed to herd the rest of them outside where they belong. Although one of the grey bantams has managed to get back in twice since then so I’ve set Badger the three-legged collie on guard on my doorstep much to the chickens disgust!
One of the big laying chickens isn’t too “clever” this morning as they say around here – she’s looking very sorry for herself and has a very rattly chest as she breathes. My mum was a bit worried about her when she went to feed them this morning and she wasn’t looking any better later on so I popped her down to the veterinary practice I do a little work for to get some advice.
Sarah and Eva had just finished dealing with a sick calf that was hospitalised on a drip in the farm animal ward and were free to see my little chicken so they both had a listen to her wheezing chest and then they put the stethoscope in my ears (because my hands were full holding a chicken!) so that I could listen too. We agreed that what I refer to as Sarah’s Chicken Recipe was the best option – a little cocktail of tiny injections to fight any infection and make her feel more comfortable. Chickens aren’t the easiest animals to treat, not many drugs are licensed for their treatment and they don’t respond in quite the same way as mammals either. However I have a great deal of trust in all our lovely vets and they’ve had success with curing some of my more random poorly animals that I bring in to the surgery so I’m hopeful that this chicken might respond as well as her sister Diddly Squat did last year. Fingers crossed anyway – she’s tucked up in her basket for now in the warmth of mum’s conservatory today.
On the whole it’s been rather a chicken-flavoured sort of day so far. I hope that despite that they’ll be laying some Easter Eggs for me!