Watching our hens is one of my favourite time-wasters. I call it thinking about stuff, but really it’s just mindless voyeurism. Seeing them peck and scratch about takes the mind into another realm, a much simpler one where the range of decisions to be made is limited. It’s like watching television where you are basically watching other people work, so it’s restful.
Today my favourite hen to ponder is Dahlia Lamé, so named because of her long neck and heavy fringe which makes her look like a llama. She is golden, silky and might be related to the Dalai Lama (not really). In the world of Dahlia Lamé, food is the top priority. She’s usually first out of the chicken coop in the morning, as long as she manages to elbow (do chickens have elbows)? her way past Marlena, who’s about twice her size and black with copper overtones. Dahlia Lamé makes straight for the feeder and pecks aggressively and noisily at the food for much longer than the other hens or our feisty little Peking Bantam cockerel. That might be because the cockerel usually has sex on his mind first thing in the morning. But he struggles to get out of bed, is sleepy and prone to laziness and as he is too small to reach Marlena, he soon gives up. He’s usually distracted by Dahlia Lamé’s urgent peck, peck, pecking so he joins her for breakfast. The cockerel is called Mustapha and his plumage looks at first glance to be black, but it is far from black. It ranges from iridescent greens and purples to white when the wind blows up beneath his underskirts. Mustapha’s really quite a magnificent little fellow.
The rest of the girls are distracted by the corn we throw out for them every morning, so Dahlia Lamé has no competition at the feeder and can eat and eat. Mustapha is a gentleman, so whilst he joins Dahlia Lamé, he does not crowd her. She eats consistently but never seems to get any bigger, unlike her sister Lavender who’s the bravest chicken I have ever met. Plump, pale purple and very round this little bantam hen waits every morning until all the other chickens are out of the coop. She sits patiently on the perch a metre or so up from the floor of the henhouse. She waits for the perfect moment. She checks wind speed and direction, she checks possible destination points and has an eye out for any obstructions. She seems to wait for confirmation that all preflight checks are complete and satisfactory. When she has it, plus a comforting little tickle under her little chicken chin she’s suddenly and noisily aloft. Lavender mostly lands with a bump about three metres from her perch, following a relentlessly downwards trajectory. Lavender gives herself a little huffle before scampering on her feathery feet to some distant corner of the enclosure. She remembers breakfast and then scampers back to the others. By tomorrow her failure is forgotten.
Why am I telling you this? It’s because today I have to waste time, abuse it and slap it about a bit. I have to let time dissipate, melting and dribbling away, gone forever. I don’t know why, but some days are like that, some days need that. And if you are reading this, you probably understand and I am not alone after all.