- Always peck at shoes – food will fall from the sky if you do. Purple shoes are the best.
- When outside in the garden, look up to the sky at regular intervals whilst shaking the feathers on your head. Spin round in circles and flap your wings. Don’t worry that this makes you stagger round the garden like a drunk at closing time; it’s called swag. All the best cockerels have it.
- If one of your hens lays an egg, go and sit on it immediately. It then becomes your prize possession, your very own butt nugget.
- In fact, if one of your hens is in the nesting box, go and join her. In the same nesting box of course. There’s plenty of space if you sit on top of her. She will certainly appreciate you breathing down her neck as she squeezes out an egg.
- If one of your hens shouts at you, run and hide.
- Spend hours perfecting your dance moves round the disco ball. It will really impress your hens.
Marlon proudly helped me to write these guidelines, long before I had any idea of the ludicrous events to come.
You see, one morning I was summoned down to the chicken coop by the loudest cacophony of squawks I had ever heard. It sounded like a drunken brass band on speed, and then some. Down at the coop, the thick chickens appeared to be participating in a somewhat uncoordinated tribal dance, with Marlon Fandango leading the way.
Hoping to keep neighbourly complaints to a minimum, I opened the door and walked into the coop, to try and calm things down a little. Instead I found myself at the centre of the celebrations as Marlon proceeded to do his best Scottish reel, twirling in ever decreasing circles whilst shouting loudly. Then events took a decidedly stranger turn – Marlon began to barge into the hens, rubbing his head and neck against each of them in turn. I was hit with a sudden moment of dread: was I caught in the middle of a chicken gang bang?? Feeling desperate to make my escape I tried to move towards the door, but Marlon blocked my way. He let out an almighty holler, then squatted on the ground in front of me. When he stood up I couldn’t believe my eyes… for there on the ground was an egg. An actual egg. Laid by my rooster. My… rooster?? I’m not sure who was more surprised – me or Marlon. The coop fell silent. I looked at Marlon, he looked at me. The hens looked at each other as if to say, “Well, this is awkward.”
Then, being chickens, they got on with the serious business of foraging and kicking dirt about, leaving me in a state of bewilderment amongst the dust. So Marlon is now a hen? This rooster who grew bigger than his sisters, grew hackles on his neck, long saddle feathers on his tail and a magnificent crest on his head, who had spent 2 years crowing in a morning… this is actually a HEN? (We can ignore the fact that he’d grown a beautiful beard – Joyce the Voice had grown an impressive one too, and she’s 100% hen!) But Marlon had certainly laid an egg – I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t witnessed it before my eyes. And no, I hadn’t been drinking that morning!
Suffice to say that in the weeks to follow, Marlon continued to lay eggs: not every day, but regularly enough to prove that it wasn’t a one-off event. He laid them on the floor of the coop and if I didn’t pick them up early enough, he would play football with them. He’d also lay eggs in the garden. It was almost like a party trick – “Hey listen to me crow, now watch me lay an egg! Go me!” The hens were getting a little fed up of the entire debacle by now. The chuffin cat gave him an even wider berth than usual. Nobody likes a show-off.
Upon seeking advice, it seems that Marlon probably had an excess of male hormones for the first 2 years of his life; these levels have now dropped for some reason and his ‘true form’ has finally revealed itself. As you go down to the coop nowadays, you are never sure who you will find down there – “Marlon Fandango, King of the Disco Ball”… or (in a deep voice) “call me Marlene, anytime…” We’ve even had a crow in a morning followed by an egg laid at lunchtime and a touch of flamenco dancing at dusk. It could only happen in my household. But we still call him Marlon – that’s a hard habit to break and he seems to prefer it.
Of course, to Gloria a bird is a bird. Be it male, female or confused, it would still taste good on a plate with a side of tuna for good measure. And yes, I do still shout, “Friend, not food!” as she eagerly hotfoots it down to the bottom of the garden to spend the day hobnobbing with the various inhabitants of the chicken coop.