How To Be a Successful Rooster. Or Not. By Marlon Fandango, King of the Disco Ball

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  • 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.
Marlon and Barbara nesting together (2)

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  • 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.”

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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!

IMG_6369Suffice 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.

IMG_4361Upon 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.

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Is Anybody There?

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Hello!  IMG_5900

Remember me?

Chief Staff Member for Gloria Chufflepuff, the chuffin cat, Head Poo Picker for the thick chickens, referee and chef for 3 fetid boys.  Yes, that’s me – ring any bells?

It’s been a long time.  Too long.  This poor little blog has been neglected and filed away in a dark corner with only spiders and the odd errant mouse (Gloria’s latest house guest) for company.  I think it’s time to bring it back – who agrees with me? (‘It’ being the blog, not the mouse, if you’re listening Gloria).

It’s been something of an enforced break, but more on that another time.  For now, I’m sure you’re all desperate to hear the latest news.

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Gloria is as rambunctious as ever.  She has grown bigger and poofier, as has her attitude.  Her headbutts can knock you into a neighbouring room, particularly with 14 pounds of force and sassiness behind them.  She was out in the garden yesterday, now that the sun has finally made an appearance.  As she patrolled across the lawn, tufty feet pounding the ground, tail wafting in the breeze, I noticed that her belly fur was actually touching the grass.  Bearing in mind that I recently mowed the lawn, it made me realise that she’d been caught unawares – her summer body is a long way off (I know the feeling!).  That’s what a prolonged winter does for you.  Well, that and a voracious appetite for Dreamies treats…

IMG_4294The thick chickens, of course, moulted in the middle of winter, with snow heavy on the ground.  As I ran around the coop trying to collect up the discarded feathers which were being buffeted by the hurricane-strength winds, I did wonder whether to sew them into mini jackets for the hens.  I mean, obliging little souls that they are, I didn’t really want ready-plucked frozen chucks, even if it was Christmas-time.

 

The boys have also grown.  In size and in noise.  And in messiness.  My cupboards are always bare as they manage to eat every single morsel they can find, however well-hidden it may be (even my Mint Choc Club biscuits from the secret compartment in the fridge – how very rude!) Have you ever seen a boy inhale a jaffa cake?  I have.  And don’t even get me started on the husband.

So I’m still here, and planning to do lots more writing.  Which leads me to my main question: is there anybody left to read this?

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You Know it’s Autumn When…

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1  You go for a walk in the woods and emerge looking like Miss Haversham, complete with delightful, new cobweb-infested accessories.

2  It’s communal shower time again, when your ablutions seem to be shared with all manner of uninvited moths, spiders and insects.  What’s worse than finding a spider in the shower?  Just finding the leg of a spider… leading you to die inwardly as you check the soles of your feet for the rest of the innards *shudder*

3  You step out of the shower, go to grab your towel, and instead find yourself shaking hands with a large spider.  It’s very nice of him to introduce himself formally before taking up residence in your bathroom, but I’d say his timing is a little off to be honest.

4  The chuffin cat develops a new coat – consisting mainly of dead leaves and garden debris – which she gleefully spreads around the house at regular intervals.  As a bonus, she might even bring you in a slug or three, stuck to her belly fur.  Having thrown the slug(s) across the room (any room, she’s not fussy), she will then provide you all with some evening entertainment as she proceeds to noisily suck all the slug snot off her body in a particularly uncouth manner.

5  You realise it might be time to invest in some little tin hats for the chickens, as the coop is positioned directly beneath a giant oak tree, and a heap of hooligan squirrels take obscene delight in lobbing acorns from a great height.  Alternatively, just rename your chickens Chicken Licken, Henny Penny, Turkey Lurkey and Cocky Locky, and live out your very own live version of the children’s classic tale.

6  The apple tree in the garden bears fruit, not that you get the chance to eat any of it as the marauding gang of squirrels snaffle the lot, once they’ve finished using the chickens as target practice that is.

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All Change!

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It must be said: there is nothing more alarming than being woken by the sound of a cockerel crowing. In your lounge. Particularly when said cockerel is actually a 6 week old hen. Or so you thought.

Gloria and Daphne

“Is that a cat I see?” “Nope.”

Yes, the female dominance in our household was never destined to last. It appears that we have not one but two cockerels amongst our little flock of chickens. Beryl’s crowing took everyone by surprise. It was 6.45am on a Thursday morning when the serene silence was shattered by the most excruciating sound that could only be described as like fingernails being dragged down a blackboard. Bedroom doors flew open and we all congregated, bleary-eyed, round the chicken cage.  Again we heard the dreadful noise that seemed to emanate from Beryl, albeit through her closed beak. To be honest, she looked quite shocked herself as she squirted out a runny turd. The rest of the chickens remained motionless, almost as if to say, “Well, this is awkward…”

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Is anyone awake yet?

Over the following few days, Beryl’s crowing increased with alarming intensity. She could be heard randomly from as early as 5.35am *groan* to as late as 8pm at night. Yet with night time temperatures falling to near zero, and the fact that the chucks were only a few weeks old, we had no choice but to keep them in the cage in the lounge. Even the chuffin cat’s initial interest turned to disgust and irritation. A couple of weeks previously, we had changed the brooder lamp bulb from a bright white to an infra-red variety. This had frustrated the chuffin cat, who realised that her chance of a quick poultry snack had now been replaced with ‘slow roast’ chicken – she never was that good with patience. Now her beauty sleep was being interrupted; after all, who wants their afternoon siesta ruined by a noisy pumped-up pile of feathers?

An Instagram follower kindly suggested that we cover the cage at night to keep it dark, which has worked brilliantly so far. Morning routines, of course, have had to be altered accordingly if anybody wants a lie in. It comes to something when you find yourself creeping round the lounge with the stealth of a ninja, just to avoid a slumbering cockerel. In fact, one morning I even resorted to shutting myself in a cupboard just to use the hairdryer. Yes, really. It was like a mini sauna in there by the time I’d finished.

With all this commotion, we realised that Beryl would need a more appropriate name. Beryl is indicative of a small, plump, pottering hen, not a loud, proud, crowing rooster. The name Clive was picked by son no 1, and agreed upon by all.

“Crapping Clive!” shouted son no 3 with glee.

You see, Clive has quite a party trick: he has mastered the art of the projectile turd, to such a degree that he can hit an object over 3 foot away! It might not impress many people, but the boys in our household regard that as a pretty impressive feat.

Hence Beryl has now become known as Crapping Clive, Sir Crapalot, or to give him his full title: Clive Von Craphousen. Clive is quite pleased with his new moniker and will happily come running when you call his name. Then again, he also comes to you when you call “Chicken Pie!”

So I mentioned 2 cockerels. Mavis has undergone something of a transformation: her looks changed very quickly from Justin Bieber to Crusty the Clown.

 

With a magnificent crest on her head and long powerful thighs, we could no longer deny the fact that Mavis was now to be called Marlon. A most flamboyant boy, he loves to dance around a small disco ball that I decided to hang in the cage as a boredom buster. This has earned him the title Marlon Fandango. It certainly suits him.

Marlon and Clive having a chat with Gloria

Marlon Fandango and Clive Von Craphousen hobnobbing with Gloria Chufflepuff

In other news, Joyce the Voice has been busy growing a beard. Daphne Dapplebum still likes to stare at the wall, not that she can see much through the profusion of feathers on her head. And Barbara is quickly becoming known as the brains of the flock – she was the first one to work out that flies make a tasty protein snack. Or maybe she was just copying the chuffin cat.

Yowzers!

Slow roast chicken?! Yowzers!

Here Come the Girls!

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Yes, you read that right. Our male-dominated household just had a big injection of female company, in the name of five frenzied, fuzzy-headed little chicks!  To be honest I only wanted 3 hens, but in view of the fact that none of the chicks could be sexed at a week old, I was advised to get a couple extra and then rehome any that grew into cockerels at a later date.

Fast forward 6 months, and I can see myself with a coop containing 5 cockerels. No, scrap that. It will be 5 separate coops, each containing one cockerel.  Well I do tend to live my life according to the Law of Sod.

Gloria supervising the new chicksHaving lost both of our much-loved hens, Cobweb Gladys and Doris DooDah, by the end of last year, I was crying out for some more chickens.  These little downy chicks have brought such fun to the household, especially as they are currently kept under a heat lamp in a wooden brooder in the lounge.  My life is now being conducted to a background of constant <peep> <peep> <peep> noises; even when they’re asleep, they seem to emit some kind of sound.  And I couldn’t be happier!  Neither could Gloria, the chuffin cat, who has named them Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. (“Roast chicken? Don’t mind if I do…”)

So *sounds fanfare* please meet:

Daphne 1 wk oldDaphne
One of the quieter chicks
Looks disgruntled with an air of surprise
Hobbies: sleeping, eating, running, leapfrog

 

Mavis 1 week oldMavis
A protector
Most likely to be a boy (Marlon)
Inquisitive but terrified; mad hair
Hobbies: exploring, flying, staring at the wall

 

Joyce the Voice 2 weeks oldJoyce the Voice
The loudest of the chicks
Sounder of intruder/unexpected item alarm
Hobbies: singing, jumping, flapping
Did I mention she sings loudly?

 

Beryl 1 week oldBeryl
Another protector
Calm and inquisitive, likes to eyeball you
Hobbies: falling asleep standing up, exploring, cuddling

 

Barbara 1 week oldBarbara
The baby of the group
Quiet, shy, impossibly cute
Hobbies: sleeping in the foodbowl, washing feet in water bowl

 

Welcome to the family you little bundles of fuzzy chaos.  I predict riotous times ahead.
Marvellous 😀

 

 

How to Introduce a Cat to a Chicken, Part 2

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Have you ever wondered if a highly-strung chicken and a naughty young cat could be friends?  Judging by my ‘Friend not Food’ post earlier, you would assume not.

014Doris has never been the brightest chicken in the coop. Throw her a grape and she often stands motionless, staring at you with her beak open, a vacant look in her eyes. The grape can land on the floor directly in front of her, and she will still be gazing up at you.

“It’s there, you daft ‘apeth!” you can exclaim, pointing to the ground.

Only then will Doris look down and gasp (in a chicken-like manner) “Well I’ll be blowed! How the chuffin ‘ell did it get there??”

“It bounced off your beak and landed there when I threw it to you!”  (She’s not called Dim Doris for nothing).

And the plump little hen will shake her head, give a little chuckle and attack the grape viciously. It’s a shame that she doesn’t show the same attack mode when Gloria Chufflepuff appears.

Being a fluffy ninja, Gloria just wants a sparring partner; someone to ambush and chase and slap.  Yet Doris just wants to eat. Therein lies the problem.

Whereas Doris used to dilly dally about in the garden when I called her to bring her back to the coop (much like an errant child: “Hang on a mo, I’ve just found a worm!”), she now scuttles furtively into the relative safety of her enclosure. However Gloria still persists in trying to play.  021Many a time recently I have been replenishing the chicken food in the coop, when I’ve heard a noise from above. As I’ve looked up, I’ve been showered in dirt and cobwebs (dusting the coop isn’t high on Doris’ list of priorities) – only to find a wide-eyed furry face beaming down at me through the coop roof saying, “Oooh look! A CHIKIN!”

I mean, stalking from above?  That’s a bit out of order. Don’t chickens have a right to privacy?  Imagine being slap bang in the middle of a dust bath and looking up to discover a voyeuristic cat ogling you! Shocking.

Once Gloria had mastered the coop-top spying manoeuvre, she decided to take things a step further. There was I, merrily poo-picking in the coop… well I say merrily… maybe I’ve exaggerated a bit there. 067Doris hopped outside, having found an interesting speck of nothingness to peck.  As I followed her out of the coop, I pulled the door closed behind me… and turned to discover a fluffy face looking back at me. Yes, the cat was sitting inside the chicken coop, and the chicken was gleefully stomping about outside in the garden!  Doris thought this was hilarious, and in an act of blatant bravado she kept waddling up and pecking the outside of the enclosure.  I had never seen Gloria so subdued, her whiskers twitching as she blinked her big, green eyes. It wasn’t easy trying to swap the occupants over, believe me.

008Several days later, I had an even bigger surprise: having been bent double whilst undertaking the coop cleaning chores, I stood upright to be confronted by Gloria nonchalantly sauntering out of the pop hole of the chicken house. She then sat at the top of the ramp and had a quick wash, before looking at me with an expression that said, “WHAT??”.  Clearly impressed with the sleeping quarters, she had decided to make herself at home.

We have now got to the point where Gloria accompanies me down to the chicken coop every day. I open the door, Doris waddles out and Gloria bounds in.  014017Sometimes they sit together in the coop, pointing and laughing at me as I clean.  At other times, they play leap frog or rugby with Doris’ yellow ball.  Of course outside the coop, on the grass, Gloria reverts back to her ninja training and Doris often has to dive for cover, clucking loudly in annoyance.

 

So there we have it: yes, a thick chicken and a cheeky cat can be friends. But only if they live together as room-mates in the chicken coop.  Maybe that wouldn’t be so bad – with so many cobwebs down there, Gloria could make excellent use of her beloved feather duster!

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Hunting

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I spy...

I spy…

I spy a FLY!

I spy a FLY!

I’m on a fly hunt.
I’m going to catch this one.
I’ll prance and I’ll pounce,
I’ll frisk and I’ll flounce.
Trill, trill, chirrup, chirrup.
‘Till it flutters and soars
and I fall on the floor.

Oh Gloria.

I spy a SQUIRREL!

I spy a SQUIRREL!

I’m on a squirrel hunt.
I’m going to catch this one.
With it’s big, bushy tail
I really can’t fail.
Trill, trill, chirrup, chirrup.
So I cavort on the floor
then head butt the door.

Oh Gloria.

I spy a CHICKEN!

I spy a CHICKEN!

I’m on a chicken hunt.
I’m going to catch this one.
I’ll stalk her and seek her,
like ‘follow my leader’.
Trill, trill, chirrup, chirrup.

Follow my leader

Follow my leader

‘Till she squawks in my face
and puts me in my place.

Gloooorrrriiiiaaaaa!!!

All this hunting is hard work...

All this hunting is hard work…