I'm trying to summon enough will power to clean out the hen house. It's a horrible job and i always try to find excuses not to do it. The last time i cleaned it i gave it a thorough spring clean inside and out. I am rather proud of my hen house. I bought it from an up-market company called FlyteSoFancy for the princely sum of £550.
It's ridiculously kitsch. It looks like a swiss chalet on stilts, with a sloping roof, 5 roomy nesting boxes and a heart shaped window. There's also an oblong window in the back of it so that the hens can enjoy watching the sun rising over Whitmore Coppice every morning.
I was so excited the week before it was delivered that i kept waking up in the night.
Chicken expert and poultry breeding enthusiast Barry Dunning lives in Ibberton, our neighbouring village, so the day before the hen house was due to arrive, i went to buy some hens. I had £50 in my pocket which i thought would be more than enough money...
When i walked around to the paddock at the back of his house i felt like a child in a sweet shop. I actually squealed. There were at least 50 pens, each one housing a different breed of chicken - there ranged from enormous great chickens which looked like they were wearing fluffy boots, right down to tiny little bantams
I didn't even try to hide my excitement. I rushed around the paddock, dizzy with glee, shouting "That one!" and "Two of those please!" as the man trotted along behind me scribbling furiously on his note pad as he tried to keep track of which ones i was choosing. There was great excitement when i reached the furthest pen and clapped eyes on a pair of Black Brahmas - enormous birds with dark velvety plumage, fluffy feet and a gaudy yellow circle round their throats like a naff gold chain. They were unbelievably bling - the unrivalled chavs of the poultry
world. Even the way they moved was pugnaciously chav-like; swaggering around with an air of loutish belligerence. If you walked past them in Yeovil town centre you wouldn't bat an eyelid.
I ordered 6 of them.
Finally, my order was complete. I ran back to the car for the money whilst the man worked out the cost. Imagine my dismay when he said "That'll be £278 please."
"I've only got 50!" i squeaked.
If he heard me, he didn't show it.
Two minutes later i was driving home for more money.
I was whimpering slightly as i raided the housekeeping jar. As i looked at the wad of notes i felt giddy. Could i really spend almost three hundred pounds on some chickens? I imagined what else i could pay for with that much money. A package holiday. Five weekly shops. Six sets of horse shoes. 30 bottles of wine. A quarter of our Hunting Subscription....
I stuffed the wad of notes back into the jar. Then a vision appeared in my mind, of the 4 Chav Chickens lounging in the garden outside the kitchen window, strutting majestically down the ramp from their penthouse suite.
I grabbed the money and jumped in the car....
The deal was sealed. The chickens were being delivered two days after the hen house had been erected. That night, and much to Jasper's amusement, i went to bed early and read "Starting with Chickens" from cover to cover.
The house was delivered in flat pack form the next morning and by lunch time it had been assembled and was standing in the back garden. I had angled it so that the ramp (or "pop-hole") was facing the kitchen windows, so that i could watch the hens emerging in the morning. I filled the nesting boxes with a thick layer of dust free wood shavings and wasted no time in painting the house Farrow and Ball Lilac with a white roof. When Jasper caught me making a little pair of curtains for the heart shaped window, he asked me if i had taken leave of my senses and remarked, rather sarcastically that i should do away with the perches and furnish the house with bunk beds.
It looked marvellous when it was finished and i was besides myself with excitement at the thought of showing the chickens their new home.
The little white poultry van rattled down the driveway on Monday evening, and chicken man and i carefully unloaded the chickens straight into their house. There were 25 of them in total, and i brimmed with excitement as i watched them jostle for space on their new perches and settle down for the night.
The next morning i could hardly wait to open the pop hole and watch them file down the ramp. Jasper hadn't yet seen any of the chickens so i decided to wait until he finished milking and came in for breakfast before i let them out. I couldn't wait to see the look on his face as he marvelled at them all!
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity he waved through the window and i went out to join him in the garden. He stood watching while i slid back the bolt of the house and laid down the ramp. Nothing happened for a minute or two.
"Why aren't they coming out?" Jasper asked.
"Just give them a minute. They're probably a bit nervous."
Another couple of minutes passed.
"Do i have to stand here all morning?" he sighed.
I gave him a cross look.
"They must be stupid." he tutted.
Suddenly, one of the Chavs entered stage right -high stepping cautiously into view. The Pom Pom on his head caught the sun magnificently, and his necklace shone white gold.
"What the hell is that?" Jasper asked in an incredulous voice.
"Don't be facetious darling. you know perfectly well what it is."
He gawped at Chav Chicken, lost for words.
Then - "What's that thing on its head? And why is it wearing a necklace?"
I mustered all the dignity i could and ignored his remarks. One by one the chickens filed out into the garden.
"How many more are there?" he demanded after the tenth one had strutted down the ramp.
"Fifteen" i whispered.
"Fifteen more! Fifteen more? You were only supposed to get FIVE! I know you're disnumerate but this is ridiculous!
"We'll never have to buy another egg!" i ventured. "They lay an egg a day."
He snorted "What are we going to do with 175 eggs a week?! I haven't eaten an egg since you told me that they're chicken periods."
I hung my head.
He put his arm around my shoulders. "Sorry bun, i didn't mean to be cross. It's just that, 25 chickens for a 2 person household!"
"I got carried away", i said in a small voice. "Sorry."
"There there, never mind. You are a silly billy aren't you?" he smiled giving me a big hug.
He started laughing.
"what is it?" i asked
"The hen house. "
"What about it?"
"It's a bit twee isn't it?" he tittered.
We watched the last chicken emerge, and went inside for breakfast.
"By the way, how come the house keeping jar's empty?"