When they moved in they were scrawny and bold.
I wanted them to be nervous, to respond timidly to my gentle coaxing, but after 18 months in a cage, there was no PTSD or need for counselling. They just marched into the garden and took over.
Three years on, it turns out they are good at dropping dead, rubbish at laying eggs, and definitely in charge.
Cats Must not Stalk Birds
God help any cat that innocently practices being a tiger around here. Mine was doing the invisible creep towards a pigeon, with every whisker under steely control, when a chicken charged her. Luckily the cat can run faster than a chicken, but only just. I am not sure if it was OK to laugh so much.
Dogs are Bad
If a dog turns up, the chickens hide behind a bush and squawk angrily. If the dog runs around wagging, sniffing, and welcoming itself into the garden, the squawks become deafening. It is no fun being a dog around here. You have to sit on the end of your lead and watch chickens chase cats.
Nobody Should Sit Alone
This is how they position themselves if I sit outside.
On sunny days, they settle beside me in companionable silence. Except I am not there because I got up to take the photo.
Visitors are Welcome
They rush to greet visitors and gather at their feet to groom the visiting shoes with pecking and scratching. Some people find that unsettling. They try to be nice about it but you can tell they don’t like it.
Things get worse if there is food. Visitors don’t move quickly enough when a chicken tries to snatch it. Then the chickens get locked in their run to think about things.
Change is Exciting
The run was falling over.
The hay was dirty and their water had gone green.
And the food bowl was filthy, with an interesting weed pattern forming underneath. I had guilty thoughts about RSPCA inspectors.
I cleaned it up and re-built the run with excited chickens at my feet, ecstatic about every nettle, stone or block that was moved.
And when I moved their house, they practised going in and out just to be sure that they knew where it was.
Compost is Good Stuff
We should all know that, but it takes a chicken to point it out.
Turning compost is messy and interesting, with black treasure at the bottom for the garden, and ants all the way through for the chickens.
A chicken at the bottom of a pile of compost is happy and maybe even grateful?
Pets, Farming and Food
This place has had dogs so important they got their own graves, hamsters that escaped and lived behind the piano, a baby crow who refused to leave, a lost parrot that bit fingers, sad bored goldfish and now, busy chickens and important cats.
It has always been fun to work out what they were thinking.
You can play the same game when you pass a field of cows.
I decided these two are content because that calf has been allowed to grow up with its mother. I thought about singing loudly to attract them nearer. Cows like that. But people were passing by, and it is best to sing loudly to cows when nobody is watching.
But when we smell a bacon sandwich or watch a sausage sizzle many of us, even the ones who love our gerbil to bits, don’t wonder if that animal was as happy as these cows.
If you start thinking like that you find out about factory farms, and then you can’t unthink some things. And it is tricky because the sausages and bacon still smell tasty.
But the free-range, grass-fed ones taste better because they are all mixed up with morals. And they cost loads more, so you eat less meat, and that is no bad thing.