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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Teeth and Fluffy Trousers

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Today I had an argument with the chuffin cat.  It wasn’t a pleasant experience. I have the scars to prove it.  That’s the last time I try to wrestle a piece of holly from her armpit. Until next week that is, when I’ll have to do it all again.  But then it will probably be a bramble stuck in her bum fur, just to change it up a bit. Maybe I should sell ring-side tickets to watch the battle.

Anyway, keen to put our differences aside, I bought her a catnip ball.  Not a tatty, fabric shape infused with 3 solitary leaves of catnip.  No, this was an entire ball constructed of compressed catnip: a deluxe treat.

IMG_5480As I handed the peace offering to Gloria, she eyed me suspiciously.  Two minutes later, having wrestled with it, batted it, pummelled it, dribbled on it and sat on it, she promptly stood up and cast it aside.  Then she flounced off outdoors without even giving it a second glance.  Assuming that put an end to our disagreement, I made a well deserved cup of tea.  As I headed outside with my mug, I felt content in the knowledge that I would be able to sit peacefully in my bear chair, without the worry of being clawed through the wooden slats by a revenge-seeking tufty paw.

Ten minutes later, I received an unexpected present from Gloria in return – a plump, soggy, brown mouse deposited carefully at my feet.  A very much alive mouse who promptly took two large gasps of air, and then waddled off at a brisk pace.

The face of disapprovalGloria looked from me, to the mouse and then back to me again.  Clearly she was expecting some form of action.  We watched together as her ‘offering’ disappeared back into the undergrowth, like a mini spy on a secret mission, having infiltrated enemy lines. He was only missing the dark glasses and briefcase.  Maybe he’d left them in the hedge earlier.

Gloria threw herself on the grass in front of me, an air of disgust hanging like a dark cloud over her fuzzy head.  She glared at me.  I glared back.  And thus we ended up right back where we started from.  In my role as Chief Human Staff Member, I had yet again failed abysmally in trying to live up to Gloria’s high expectations.

Note to self: you can never win a fight when teeth and fluffy trousers are involved (just to clarify, both of those relate to the chuffin cat and not to me).

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An Important Day

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Dear Gloria

img_4417You may have woken me up at 6am (it’s Saturday, that’s really quite rude) by clattering a ping pong ball around the kitchen floor.

You may have run your teeth along my foot when I tried to go back to sleep.

You may have initiated an affectionate head-butt, but then turned at the last minute and yelled, “Sucker!” whilst slapping me round the face.

img_4525You may have insisted on going outside despite the rain lashing down, and then come in dragging wet leaves and debris across the freshly-vacuumed carpet.

img_4536You may have sat in the middle of the floor with your fur stuck up on end, looking like a giant fluffy porcupine, swiping away any offers of a towel, preferring instead to wipe your wet fur along the soft furnishings.

But today is an important day for you, so I didn’t shout.

I cleaned out your litter tray, since you prefer to use it like a ball pit, albeit with white grit in place of coloured balls.

I cooked a big roast beef meal, not because you like beef, but because you like the crispy bits from the roast potatoes.

img_4551I tried to take some pictures. You refused to smile for the camera.  You refused to sit still for the camera. You hate my camera.

I bought you presents, which I then wrapped in catnip-infused paper.  I did the same with the card I made for you too. You ignored that and chewed the foil bow instead.  You went berserk when you saw your new toy, but then ignored it when I removed the packaging.

But this is an important day for you.  Today is your second birthday.

And what did you do in return?

You decided to indulge me in a touch of forensic anthropology – my favourite subject. You left 3 dead mouse carcasses scattered in the front garden: fly-infested, mangled corpses, carefully placed in full view of the garden path.  Your very own body farm.  I only hope it wasn’t a warning for the postman.

img_4543So Happy Birthday, you mischievous heap of fluff and mayhem.  Here’s to another year of sleeplessness, irritability and attitude… I’m talking about you, not me, sweet cheeks.  Hope you’ve enjoyed your day more than I have *mwah*

with much love from the Chief Human Staff Member xx

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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!

Reasons Why I Can’t Sleep

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Need to sleep...

I used to be one of those annoying people who could drop off to sleep in an instant: any time, any place, anywhere… sometimes when people least expected it (apologies to anybody from my past who was left chattering away to my slumbering, dribbling form – my student years were, at times, a blur…)
This has all changed.
So much so that, whilst lying in bed desperately waiting for sleep to descend, I decided to make a list of all the things that had kept me awake over the course of 1 week.
Yes, believe it or not, these are all true!
The reasons why I can’t sleep:

1  The raucous laughter of an intoxicated duck;

2  The chuffin cat using my stomach as a springboard to practice her double back somersault with half twist (the twist being a claw up my left nostril);

3  Two owls trading insults either side of the bedroom window: “Whooo?” “Yooooo!” “Noooo!” “Yoooooo!” “Yooooo?” “Noooo!”

4  The sensation of desperately needing a wee but realising it’s simply too cold to get out of bed;

5  The same 2 lines of a song going through my head. Playing on repeat. And I can’t for the life of me remember any more of the song. Despite the fact that I was merrily singing along to the entire song just a few hours ago;

6  Mr and Mrs Fox having a very public domestic dispute;

7  The shadow on the window that resembles an axe murderer hiding behind the curtain;

8  The sound of the chuffin cat pouncing on her squeaky turkey at random intervals;

9  The fact that the weatherman has forecast “a chance of wintry precipitation” so I have to keep sneaking a peek through the curtains to see if it’s snowing yet;

10  The Police helicopter hovering 2 foot above my house (clearly looking for the axe murderer behind the curtain).

Yawn

How To Take Down A Christmas Tree When You Have A Cat

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1  Remove the cat from the tree.

2  Unplug the fairy lights.

IMG_39003  Explain to the cat (for the umpteenth time) that the wiring on the fairy lights is not to be used as dental floss.

4. Unwrap the wiring from the cat’s teeth.

5. Fetch the bag for the baubles. Remove the cat from the bag.

IMG_32376.  Look for the baubles on the tree. Note that there aren’t many left. Observe how the top half of the tree is still decorated whilst the lower half is completely bald (save for the odd mangled, half-chewed chocolate wrapper). Glare at the cat who is nonchalantly polishing her claws underneath the tree.

7.  Remove the cat from the tree.

8.  Pluck a bauble off the tree.  Drop the bauble on the floor as the cat pounces at your hand.

9.  Retrieve a plaster and stick it on your bleeding finger.

IMG_313110.  Chase the cat who is chasing the bauble round the lounge.

11. Retrieve the bauble from the cat and place it in the bag.

12.  Remove the cat from the bag.

13.  Remove the cat from the tree.

14.  Collect the remaining baubles from the tree, repeating steps 7-13 until all the baubles are safely deposited in the bag.

15.   Nip to the chemist to stock up on plasters.

16.  Remove the cat from the tree.

17.  Take hold of the fairy lights and gently unwind them from the tree branches.

18.  Remove the fairy lights from the cat’s mouth.

19.  Remove the cat from the tree.

20.  Replace the plasters on your fingers.

IMG_311821.  Keep unwinding the fairy lights from the tree branches.

22.  Unwrap the fairy lights from the cat’s neck.

23.  Remove the cat’s claws from the wiring on the fairy lights and stick another plaster on your bleeding hands.

24.  Lay the lights across the floor as you remove them from the tree.

25.  Remove the cat from the tree.

26.  Remove the cat from the lights.

27.  Run round in circles as you try to wind the fairy lights into a ball before the cat can throttle herself again.

28.  Find the box for the lights. Remove the cat from the box and place the lights in it.

29.  Take the tree down one segment at a time and place each segment in a large bag. Place any broken branches in the bags too, with the intention of reattaching them next Christmas… knowing full well that you will never get round to reattaching them.

30.  Pour yourself a large drink and dress your wounds whilst watching the cat sulk in the corner.

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