My (Brief) Life As A Chicken Farmer

I recently had a 10-week freelance gig editing two magazines called Country Smallholding  and Your Chickens . I was brought up on a farm so it wasn't exactly a foreign language to me - although terms like coccidiosis and chalazae had me reaching for the dictionary.
We always had chickens, bantams and guinea fowl running about when I was a child - all so free range that you'd occasionally come across a nest in a hedge containing clutch of eggs. And then there was the time I looked after my sister's chickens while she was away in Turkey.
I wasn't worried - expert chicken farmer that I was (in my own head). I was more concerned about keeping some plants alive in her polytunnel, what with my propensity for killing anything green as soon as I look at it.
I wasn’t upset that I was most definitely second choice for this task. Her son was supposed to be on chicken duty but he had been called away to work on Guernsey – a bit far to pop back to chuck a bit of corn about. He gave me very detailed instructions about how to care for the chickens, a cockerel and one broody hen and how to water plants without over-watering when the soil began to feel dry.
I could tell by the look on his face that he didn’t consider me quite up to the job and expected to return to chicken carnage and plant annihilation.
So there I was, wellies at the ready, a chicken farmer and horticulturist by default. Days one, two, three and four went swimmingly. No sudden deaths, plants still green(ish), eggs being laid – all was well with the world. What could be easier than making sure a few chickens had food and water?
By day five I had become complacent and was even enjoying my brief stint as a hoary-handed daughter of the soil. Then it all went horribly wrong. I had been filling up the water-bowls near the fence but then I spotted another bowl further away and thought I would fill that one up as well.
The chickens were interested and started to gather around, clucking contentedly as happy chickens do. They had been drinking from here quite a lot and it had been raining so the area around the bowl was a bit messy.
The next thing I knew I was slipping on the mud, arms flapping like a demented overgrown Buff Orpington; then flat on my back, chickens squawking and scattering in all directions...except for one big protective cockerel who stood staring at me with a baleful glare in his eye.
I took one look at his razor-sharp beak and his air of evil intent and, I admit, might have overreacted a tad. Moving quicker than I have in 30 years, I leapt back onto my feet and ran as fast as my little short fat legs would carry me. Outside the pen I saw Cocky Scissor-Beak strutting away. I swear he was shaking his feathered head in bemused despair.
I was covered in mud and chicken shit, my only consolation some free range eggs for my breakfast.
Oh, and a couple of the plants had started to look a bit iffy too.
And what do those terms mean?
  • Chalazae: The cords that anchor the yolk to the shell in the egg.
  • Coccidiosis: An intestinal disease in a chicken.
What a column, hey, entertaining AND educational!

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  1. Cynthia Greensmith26 July 2018 at 16:40

    Ha, ha this made me laugh!!! I hope all the chickens and the plants were okay by the time your sister got home.

    1. Chickens fine. Plants so-so. There was tomato blight - but not my fault!

  2. Oh, dear! This sounds like my kind of luck. Thank you for the link on axolotl conservation. I'm listening as I read blogs. Interesting stuff! Be well, my dear.

    1. Axolotls are fascinating creatures, aren't they? Glad you liked the link.

  3. I knew about coccidiosis, but chalazae is a new one to me. I always called that cord the umbilical because that's what it becomes in humans.
    I'm sorry to hear about your slippery fall, but glad there was no real damage done.

    1. Whenever something bad (but not too bad) happens to me I cheer myself up with the thought that I can always turn it into a blog post!

  4. I guess mud and chicken crap made a decent cushion for your fall since you weren't hurt. Plus it gave you a great story for later.

    1. Definitely a soft landing, Patti! Only my pride was hurt!

  5. Ouch! I love chickens, especially on the grill. That nasty razor beak bird would be my first choice.

    1. A very versatile bird, the chicken! I was far more scared of the cockerel than he was of me.