When Julia first came to live next door to me, she pestered me off and on to get some hens. For a multitude of reasons this was not a good idea, though I do love these birds, so I kept prevaricating. One day I would definitely be up for it, the next good sense would kick in and I would say nope.
Julia has been dead for two years now, which is incredible, it was her anniversary on Saturday and in a fit of . . . something? I don’t know what, I ordered two hens from a local small business. I used to know the owner of this business well so had no doubts that the birds would be well looked after and healthy, and of course I would also get to catch up with someone I like, but have not seen for a couple of decades.
The catch-up was indeed lovely, and I ended up with a third bird. Two white hens newly christened Gertrude and Hermione, and a dark, streaked lady who I have called Lulabelle.
Now I had already set up quarters for them in the aviary which the parrots use very reluctantly, only going outside willingly for about a month during the hottest part of the year. As soon as I put a hen hut in there – actually an adapted dog crate – it was more or less ready for the hens to move into.
I carried the ladies through the house in a large cardboard box so that the parroty people, who are easily spooked by unexpected birds, did not get (too) upset, and went straight to the aviary to open the box, not realising that Dolly Dumpling had followed me. I opened the box, one of the white girls jumped straight out and Dolly threw a fit behind me, raising his crest, jumping about with wings outstretched and hissing like a demented kettle.
He can be a terrible bully to other birds, but unless they are afraid of him, which they never are; he backs down very quickly as he is also a scaredy birdie. The hens were completely unimpressed by him, talking between themselves and ignoring him, so he ran up my body to my shoulder where I could protect him while he continued hissing, but quietly now in case they retaliated.
I took him back in, locked the door behind us and left the hens to explore.
Having calmed Dolly Dumpling and explained to the Grey Clan that the girls were not interested in parrots and that they would not have to share space, I took the dogs for a walk. Came back, checked the hens. They were clustered at the back door asking to come inside.
I am as sure as I can be that these birds have not been in a house. In fact because their pens were in woodland they had probably not even been able to see my friend’s house, so I felt no guilt in leaving them outside. I was surprised to be tripping over them to get back in, though.
Fast forward to tonight. They have been in and out of their sleeping quarters all day, scattering straw and getting used to their new home. They did not want to go in to roost though, so I decided to wait until it was dark when I could easily pick them up and put them to inside. Put the parrots to bed, went upstairs to read. Heard Dolly Dumpling screaming in terror, went downstairs.
Two white hens were balancing on the windowsill outside, pressed up against the glass, staring straight at poor Dolly.
I covered his house with his blanket so that he couldn’t see the scarey monsters, then again went outside to try and get the girls inside their own sleeping quarters. No dice. They jumped down and ran away, Lulabelle was sitting on Rosie’s swing just beneath the roof. I figured if they wanted to roost high up they could do so, and fixed a branch up high for Gertrude and Hermione.
Went back inside, put the kettle on for a cup of tea. Went to check the chickens. All three were once more clustering at the back door, looking up at me pathetically when I opened it.
I told them that their house would not fit inside the back door anyway, that hens are outside birdies and I lifted the house to show them.
It fit through the door, although I had been unable to take it outside without folding it up first.
And that, dear reader, is why I have three chickens sleeping in my back porch, inside the house.