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.
Before you leave:
You can follow me on: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. As you can see, I have far too much to say for myself.
- Please feel free to leave a comment. I love to hear from you and will reply and visit your blog, if you have one, if I can.
- You really don't want to miss my next post. It could be my best one ever (or not... who knows)! Enter your email address top right and FeedBurner will tell you every time there's an update.