I am looking out of the window at a very clean and tidy hen house. I couldn't put it off any longer. A) I had run out of excuses and B) i was starting to feel a bit guilty.
After lunch one sunny morning, Lily and I got to work. Well, Lily sat on the grass and kept a close eye on proceedings as i climbed into the house and started sweeping out all the poo, feathers and straw.
It was a boiling hot day and the house was stuffy, dusty and claustrophobic. My heart sank as i discovered a new infestation of Red Mite - horrible parasites that live on chickens. They hide in the roof of the house in the day, and once the hens have gone to bed for the night, they drop down, burrow under their feathers and feast on their blood all night. They're incredibly persistent too. You can kill them by treating the house with special sprays and powders, but within a few months you will see the tell tale signs of their pestilential presence - feather loss, furious scratching, and an air of dejection about the hens.
Being on your hands in knees, sweeping up sticky poo in a stiflingly hot, dusty henhouse wasn't my idea of a treat, especially when combined with the grim sensation of red mites scurrying across my scalp. My irritation was compounded by the discovery that the access door for humans had jammed and no amount of pushing and kicking would open it. This meant that my only means of escape was via the pop hole, (the chickens front door if you like), a square hole about 18 inches in diameter. Grimacing and frantically scratching my seething scalp i lay down on my stomach atop a layer of oozing chicken faeces and prepared to make my escape.
Wriggling forward i stuck my head through the pop hole, whereupon Lily started to squeal with laughter. "Ha bloody ha." i muttered, edging my shoulders through the gap before staring my ungainly descent down the ramp.
Suddenly the dogs started barking and i heard a car pull up outside the house. I barely had time to ponder upon how absurd i must look, when an official looking man wearing a pinstripe suit appeared round the corner. He stopped dead in amazement when he saw me. I assumed he must be a farm rep and pointedly ignored his irritating expression of facetious surprise as he curiously surveyed me from a safe distance. I wanted to scratch my head but my arms were pinned by my sides in the narrow entrance.
"Can i help you?" i asked tersely.
"Er, I'm looking for Mr Miller."
"Sorry, i don't know where he is."
I writhed a bit more and slowly edged my way through the wretched pop hole.
"Is Mrs Miller here?" he asked, glancing towards the house.
"I'm Mrs Miller." I grunted crossly.
He looked at me in unflattering disbelief. I scowled defiantly back at him.
"If you leave your card he'll call you if he wants to make an appointment." i snapped, resisiting the urge to add "Now sod off."
He watched Lily plunge both hands joyfully into a mound of chicken shit, before smiling indulgently as though humouring a moron... "I don't make appointments. I'm a Hygeine Official from the Ministry of Agriculture, and i'm here to inspect the cleanliness levels on your premises..."