Ellen posted a story yesterday about the wrens she has been watching and it reminded me of yet another story about our chooks ... the ones we had in the village.
As soon as one chook got broody they all did, they would hide their eggs and start to settle on their clutches; if you disturbed them they would just go and find another spot to hoard their eggs in and start the whole process again, sometimes they were broody for so long we genuinely feared for them - to break the cycle we had to get fertilised eggs from our breeder and let them hatch a clutch.
It was always very cute when a clutch hatched out. Little fluffy things chirping, running around in dizzy circles. Hens aren't particularly clever and they all imagined the little ones were there own, so we might end up with ten chicks and eleven mothers at once.
The mothers would waddle along besides the chicks, constantly chivving them this way and that, rushing at any bird that landed suspiciously close to them ... I have mentioned before that our hens were free-range, so the poor old girls had a lot of ground to cover and dangers to face down.
Our most successful mother was a Bobsy-Bobs, she was a Black English Game Hen - she had one first prize in the all England showing of "wet-feathered" hens (don't ask its too complicated); her brood of six little cockerels thrived under her bustling, clucking, coaxing and cooing. I remember watching her, in the heat of the afternoon she calling them all to her, spreading out her wings and sheltering them from the sun.
One afternoon I heard a terrible commotion going on in the garden, I looked out of the window and saw Bobsy-Bob flapping her stiff black wings, screeching and rushing at ... a fox in the garden, on the other side of the fox our cockerel was crowing and strutting. The fox was greedily eyeing up the chicks, it was cool, staying just beyond the reach of the angry chooks, even sat down, waiting for them to tire ... I rushed downstairs to the kitchen and found our two dogs waiting at the back door, desperate to get out and see off the intruder - I opened the door and out they rushed; the Ridgeback, the Collie, Bobsy-Bob and Chicken Supreme suddenly all threw themselves at the fox. The smug, self satisfied look on it's face was quickly wiped off as it raced towards the hedge at the back of the garden, reaching it only inches before the dogs. From then on the dogs stayed outside, helping the hens in their vigil.
Although Bobsy-Bob was a tireless mother her six little cockerels soon became too much for her ... they were constantly strutting up and down the path, circling each other, chests puffed out, spurs at the ready. Our cockerel, Chicken Supreme, was also unimpressed with the would-be usurpers to his throne and he began to chase them; the garden was no longer a harmonious place to be. We asked the breeder to come and collect the boys ... she was delighted, apparently they were all fine specimens, ideal for "showing" ... all except one. She left the straggliest one behind - Sid Vicious.
Now Sid was still a youngster so was fussed over by his mother and his aunts constantly; Chicken Supreme watched him from a distance, aware that one day, (in the not too distant future) this scruffy looking fellow with a lopsided comb and too-long wattles would challenge him. He had already started to throw back his head and make a silly noise which sometimes ended up being a strangled crow.
So it came as no surprise that one fateful night, as the girls and Sid all bustled along to the coop to be locked up, Chicken Supreme singled Sid out and pushed him off the run leading to the doorway. Sid struggled to his feet and tried to duck past the older bird but Chicken Supreme was having none of it. He stood with his feet firmly planted on the run, like a bouncer in a Nightclub "Sorry mate, your names not on the list."
Sid wandered around the garden on his own, and being quite resourceful found a tree that he could roost in safely out of reach of any predators. The tree was by my daughters bedroom window. At sparrows little Sid threw back his head and crowed his not-quite crow loud and long - waking the entire household.
Sid lasted quite a few weeks in the tree, he grew bigger and more daring each day, he even tried to rape one of his aunts! Each night he would try to gain entry to the coup, each night Chicken Supreme would face him down. We got used to the sound of Sid in the tree, first thing in the morning - that was why we realised, early one morning just after he threw back his head to annouce to the world that day was about to break, he hopped down - straight into the jaws of ...