Is it time for another backyard caper yet, because I have a story busting to come out.
I think you know we have chickens. Well, we did have chickens plural. Three died and now we have one (Madam Bossy, top of the now-non-existent pecking order) and a rooster (Hector, short for Hector the Protector). Madam had been laying one of the yellowest eggs you ever saw each morning for eight days straight before a brief rest, but now she lays for two or three days then takes a day off. Either she's got worms, or she's bedding down for the short days of winter.
Yesterday we noticed Hector was looking a bit peaky. He's been doing strange things for several days now. Lying down in the grass for short periods for no reason at all, fewer raucous crows than usual (not that that's a big problem), tail dragging and a less than solicitous approach to his care of Madam. Chickens and roosters have a curious way of looking OK almost until the moment they drop dead - with three poor chickens already in the ground we know this from bitter experience, so we've been watching Hector carefully, wondering if he might be sick or perhaps a little tired. Somehow yesterday he looked different - even droopier than before, with dull eyes, laboured breathing and a strange, unproductive 'yawn'. Before my very eyes it seemed Hector was fading out, about to die.
There's nothing like a potential loss to kick one into action. I mixed up an oat and yoghurt mash and hunted up a phone number for the local vet. Once Hector and Madam went to bed we locked them into the coup (they usually roam at will) and prepared a plan of action for the morning.
Is it extreme to take time off work to care for a sick rooster? Hector has become a pet, so we didn't think so, but I'm sure everyone at work thought I was a little strange. I phoned up and informed them I would be late, hung around waiting for the pet store to open and sallied forth to buy a broad spectrum wormer, maybe some antibiotics, and a bottle of mite dust. That was the easy bit. Then I had to catch the chickens and dust them down.
As it happened, Hector and Madam were so bored in the coup they had gone back to bed. I was able to grab Hector off his perch and start sprinkling mite dust all over him... before he escaped my grasp and ran wildly back into the coup. Meanwhile Madam was squawking like I had an axe at her throat, running around the coup like crazy. I managed to corral them towards the door in an effort to catch them but they both shot out the door, into the backyard and away. I ran around after them with a towel, casting it over them like a net, but all to no avail. I could not recapture Hector to finish the job and Madam didn't get a bit of dust anywhere near her. The last I saw was the two of them indignantly clucking around the yard, scratching in the mulch and attempting to recover their dignity. Funny, cute things.
The story doesn't quite end there. When I came home from work I went down the back to see how they were. Hector looked in good spirits but they both cautiously edged away from me as I went through the gate.
And then I found them. The nasty, fat, green caterpillars that have been feasting on my tomatoes, destroying one bush at a time. In the end I found six or seven juicy little insects and in an attempt at a peace offering, mollifying their injured pride, I threw them the chicken's way. Hector grabbed each one, threw it on the ground and clucked urgently for Madam to join him in the feast. And feast she did, before slowly working her way closer and closer to me in readiness for the next catch. Peace made.
So the chickens are wormed, partially dusted and our relationship seems to be restored. A day in the life of Cecily the farm girl. Hahaha.