Waiting for Agnes

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Poultry in motion December 22, 2010

Filed under: Days of our chickens' lives — titchandboofer @ 5:22 am
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An excerpt from the diary of Danielle-Spencer the hen:


It might be morning, I don’t know. It’s still dark. Water and chunks of ice are falling from the sky. We huddle under the shelter and peer gloomily out. It could be the apocalypse.

Definitely the apocalypse. A hooded person appeared through the ice and chased us through the mud. Now I am in a house of card. The house moves and lurches. My tiny feet scrabble on the floor. Maybe I will sit.

The lurching has stopped.


The house of card is unfolding. Tigers? Lions? A tiny person? Oh my.

The tigers are stalking me, trying to look excited, but I can see the fear in their eyes. I am Chicken! One loud bok and they disappear. The tiny person isn’t so easily got rid of. At least there is no falling ice here.

And no mud. Look! I can hop here…and here…and here on these bits of cloth draped all around. And up! Up to the… pretend sky? This is too confusing. I will sit.

I see another chicken. In a field? I can just hop… no. Is it a pretend field?

I am moving. I didn’t mean to move, but I am moving. And I’m in the field. It is not pretend.

That’s a big chicken.

Holy crap. Gotta run.

Aaaaaaarrrrrghhhhhh. Big chicken has a big beak.

Ha! Hiding place. I will sit here. Shame about the water falling on me.

The hooded person is back with a funny tent. But my hiding place is secure.

Or not. Back in the house of card. Am so confused. Will putting all this food in the water and pooping on it help? No.

Dark again. House of card has disappeared. I am in a bed of straw. This might not be so dreadful.


What fresh hell is this? My bed of straw is at the feet of the big chicken. The big chicken is awake. And he is shouting? Beats pecking me I guess.

Ah. Food is coming. Even in the apocalypse there is food. That’s reassuring.

Crap. Big chicken has seen me. Running. Running. Flying! Take that big chicken!

Big chicken is shouting. From my lovely tree I can watch his curious ways. Ah see (I say in my best David Attenboroughesque voice), see how the big chicken makes his journey from the house of straw to the water hole? Pausing only to poop, and shout, and stretch his left wing, and shout, and stretch his right wing, and shout. See how he makes himself so tall to shout? Almost like a dance. And now, having taken his fill from the water hole, he begins his slow, erratic march to the lemon tree. To shout at the lemons? I could do this all day.

But what is this on the horizon? Another hooded person. With no hood. And another person. Are they following the big chicken? Oh now this could be fun.

Big chicken runs and shouts. People run and shout. They flap a big flappy tent at the big chicken. Ha ha big chicken, see how you like running in the long long grass. Oh. The big chicken is in the flappy tent. And gone.

All is quiet. Bit bored now.

Hmm. Getting dark again. Bit of drool on my feathers. Must have had a nap. Might venture down for a snack.

Damn. Forgot about the apocalypse. People are back with big flappy tent. But I am fast.

See, people? I am up. Bye bye people.


I am definitely well suited to this David Attenborough gig. I have found a new field. It is small and full of low, brown sticks. Excellent for sitting.

Sitting. Sitting. Contented sitting. A bit of scratching about. Some whispery commentating of the march of the ants. More sitting.

Not more people. I was just getting into a really good sit.

The people are circling. I will hop over here….no, that’s no good. Over here? No. Hands waving at me. Here? No. Ouch. Didn’t see that stick.

And I am up. But not flying. My wings are folded tight. I am with the people.

And now I am in a funny plastic house. Small people and tigers are watching me. This apocalypse is exhausting.

The plastic house is lurching.

And I am home. Home, glorious home.


Coming home to rooster December 18, 2010

Filed under: Days of our chickens' lives — titchandboofer @ 9:49 pm
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After the horrible loss of our feathered family, earlier this week, I was reconciling myself to the still emptiness of our back yard. We had said our good-byes to the hens, packed away their belongings, cleaned out their house and anticipated a summer of romping around in chook-poo free grass. I didn’t want to rush out and replace the ladies too soon. How could any hen replace Agnes? And what if a fox struck again? I had a plan forming to amass a pile of tasty baked goods with which to bribe our nearest and dearest to help in the construction of a high-sided, roofed, super-fox-proof outdoor run, with work commencing in February.

And then we heard from the happy new owner of Lucy, Snow White and Cinderella. Remember these little cuties?….



A couple of weeks ago they went to live around the corner with our friend and fellow midwife, all looking very much like hens. All was well. At the time I had said ‘If any of them turn into roosters you can send them back’, feeling pretty confident that, at seven weeks past supposed chicken-sexing time, we wouldn’t be seeing them in our yard again. Hmm. Chicken-sexing time? Six to eight weeks of age? Not such a narrow window after all. See our affectionately named ‘ranga chick’ up there, on the bottom right? Well, ranga chick grew into Lucy. Then Lucy grew into:….



Russell. Russell Crow. And he does. Frequently. For the past three hours he has been angrily searching our yard for his flock, cockadoodledooing at every tree, bird, interruption, poop-break, snack-break and drink-break. At four months old he is still just a baby really, but is already impressively larger and louder than a fully grown Agnes. Since his dramatic return after dusk last night I have been laughing maniacally, the beloved has been groaning and muttering ‘I don’t want a rooster’ on a loop, and one of our cats has been having a long, fur-shedding, possum-tailing, bug-eyed freak out. And it’s true. We didn’t want a rooster. I swore black and blue that I’d harden up and kill any roosters for the table. Who was I kidding? How could I kill Russell?


Conflict resolution September 24, 2010

Filed under: Days of our chickens' lives — titchandboofer @ 11:14 am
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The House


Agnes D. Hen


The Yard


24th September, 2010

Dear Ms Hen,

We write pursuant to your letter, dated 17th September. Firstly, we regret to inform you that our planned Yard meeting has been postponed once again due to conflicting schedules. We hope to set a date in October that will suit all parties. However, in the interim we have several suggestions with regard to the grievances you have so comprehensively detailed.

We are disappointed to hear that you feel your position as HOPO is under threat. From our perspective, there is no other hen for the job. Mrs Poulawitska is clearly being a Pain in Your Wing, but she has neither the experience nor the competence to oust you. Obviously the job is not always going to be Grain and Dust Baths. There will be times when you need to take your title literally. Our advice: Peck hard and Peck often. A more drastic measure is Hypnosis, although clearly this should be a last resort. You may refer to The Yard Policy and Procedure manual to guide you through the process. Essentially you Wing The Offending Hen, pinning her beak to the ground, and scratch a line, extending from her beak into the distance. This should immobilise her for some time, enabling you to assert your authority and settle The Flock.

As for the junior members of The Flock, we require your patience and understanding for just a little longer. Their positions in The Yard are only temporary. Once their capabilities as Layers or Crowers are discerned, their contracts will be terminated and they will be redirected elsewhere. In the meantime do not feel compelled to keep tabs on them. Their adoptive mother is their immediate supervisor and we will not hold you responsible in the event of Attack or Abduction. We apologise for the disruption but caution that other temporary junior positions are likely to arise in the future. It is not always possible to negotiate far in advance, as the hens of your flock may Go Broody at any time.

Lastly, The Crow. We are acutely aware of The Flock’s distress and the need for action. Management has also felt the negative impact of the Crow keenly. Plans for a Scarecrow are on the table but, as you know, the wheels of bureaucracy grind slowly. To view and comment on the plans please contact our front desk and book a time. As an interim measure we commit to Active Pursuit of The Crow whensoever this is possible, as well as early and more frequent collection of Eggs.

We hope these suggestions assist you in working effectively as HOPO.

Yours in gratitude for your ongoing support of the Faux-Farmville Kitchen and Garden.



Growing pains September 17, 2010

Filed under: Days of our chickens' lives — titchandboofer @ 10:37 am
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Agnes D. Hen


The Yard



The House


17th September, 2010

Dear Management,

I am writing this letter in reference to our recent conversation regarding my contract of employment here at Faux-Farmville. As mentioned, I have several issues to bring to your attention prior to our upcoming meeting.

Firstly, as per my existing contract – section 1, subsection ii – I will retain the HOPO (Head of Pecking Order) position until such a time as I elect to step down. In addition, as per subsection iv, my input will be considered in respect to filling the position after my retirement. For the past two months, my position as HOPO has been continually undermined, nay threatened, by one Mrs Poulawitska. Her threatening behaviour is becoming ever more difficult to ignore or manage. On several occasions she has taken advantage of the recent flock-split (the precedent for long-term union action, only recently resolved) to peck the inferior hens in a manner far above her station. She has been seen laying in the HOPO nest, charging at invaders WHEN I AM PRESENT and generally choosing to ignore my authority. Her behaviour towards the junior flock has been appalling, again undermining my authority with them. Punitive action is called for and management must act.

Which brings me to my second issue: the junior flock. Quite frankly I am deeply upset that the entirety of section 5 of my contract (dealing with flock expansion) has been disregarded by management. The terms of my contract clearly state that consultation must occur before flock expansion is instigated. Expansion increases my workload enormously and appropriate consultation prior to this action could have enabled planning for delegation. As things are, there is a great deal of role uncertainty leading, I feel, to the issues described above with Mrs P. As for the members of the junior flock, I am near at a loss for words. Initially all three were bearable, in a cutesy kind of way, spending most of their day tucked under their adoptive mother’s wings, heeding instruction and not interfering with the running of The Yard. In just four short weeks much has changed. Now in their tween weeks, they have the run of The Yard and are frequently seen willfully escaping the supervision of their adoptive mother. As a group they have no notion of sticking together under pressure and when emergencies occur they dash, at high speed, in three different directions. Without the ability to delegate to another suitable hen, situations like this are totally unmanageable. I simply cannot be in five places at once. I’m uncertain how this can be rectified without resorting to group expulsion.

My last, but by no means least, issue is the continuing problem of The Crow. Despite management’s awareness of this issue, seemingly nothing has been done to protect the product of our labours from this invader. Section 8, subsection iii of my contract states explicitly “If an invading presence persists in a manner beyond the control of the HOPO, management has a responsibility to take steps to assist in finding a solution”. The hens under my supervision can be quite fragile in temperament and morale is only weakened if they must bear witness to the cruel theft of their work. Confusion has reigned on many a day, as we try to ascertain whether Lola is Going Broody or just Guarding Her Egg from attack. As management is no doubt aware, there is such a thing as a Scare Crow. Does this not sound helpful? The finer details of purchasing/constructing such a thing are beyond my knowledge, but it CANNOT BE THAT HARD.

I look forward to our meeting, anticipating that together we can resolve these pressing issues.

Yours peckingly,

Agnes D. Hen


Stop Press: Strike ends after union boss engineers release of isolated worker August 28, 2010

Filed under: Days of our chickens' lives — titchandboofer @ 5:06 am
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Celebrations went on for several hours on Friday, here in faux-farmville, heralding the end of a fortnight’s industrial dispute. Union members, headed by their boss Agnes D Hen, had been protesting and picketing throughout the daylight hours, pausing only briefly to eat and dig up the odd garden bed. Their concerns? The solitary confinement of one of their colleagues and the subsequent employment of three unknown workers. There had been allegations of employers resorting to the use of child labour and the harbouring of possibly illegal immigrants. All egg laying had ceased for the duration.

One union member, calling herself only Lola, disclosed to the press that she was disappointed that after months of dedicated work her employers seemed deaf to her concerns regarding ongoing working conditions. She described morale as being at an all-time low, with the isolation of her co-worker striking fear into the hearts of the whole group. “If they can do that to Betty, who’s never shown up late a day in her life, what’s to stop them doing it to any of us?” she bok-bokked.

It wasn’t until late Thursday that management seemed to heed the seriousness of the workforce’s concerns. A reunion between all workers, overseen by Agnes, was promptly facilitated. Light was shed on the mystery surrounding the possibly illegal, underage workers, after management outlined the details of their position within the company. Misunderstandings now behind them, relations took an immediate turn for the better.

As a new day dawned over faux-farmville, the entire company stepped out for breakfast proudly, readying themselves for a long day of garden maintenance. Behind them in their still warm nests? A clutch of fresh eggs.


Their secret is out… August 18, 2010

Filed under: Days of our chickens' lives — titchandboofer @ 5:23 am
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Breaking news: Research reveals chickens to be social, intelligent and cunning!


I can’t say I’m surprised. But it does shed new light on thoughts I have had of keeping and fattening up any rooster-chicks for the table.


Wishful thinking August 17, 2010

Filed under: Days of our chickens' lives,No baking today — titchandboofer @ 4:11 am
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Egg production remains at a standstill here. Really, if it’s not one excuse it’s another. First it’s too cold, then Lola’s stealing the eggs, now they’re all obviously far too distracted by the chicks to get on with any laying. Betty and her babies remain separated from the flock, living in the little broody house with its covered outdoor run, safe from predators – crows, butcher birds and Agnes. They had a brief, supervised sojourn into the yard yesterday. This did not go well. Agnes took immediate advantage of the situation, deciding that chicks are never too young to be pecked firmly into their appropriate place in the order. Betty had a complete nerve turn, skittering about and warbling hard, trying to wedge her excitable babies back under her wings. The babies seemed unfazed but I don’t think we’ll be repeating that experiment for a while.

Getting the hens up for breakfast this morning, I peered hopefully into their house, scouting for eggs. Instead I find what you see above: it looks suspiciously like Agnes and Mrs P have spent their night having a pillow fight – and Lola got to be the pillow. Fortunately she still has a few feathers left on her but it’s little wonder she has spent the morning trying to get in the broody house with Betty.

Anyhoo, with no eggs to hand, the only baking here today was bread (for a bit of variety I replaced half the flour with wholemeal – yum say all). Once that was done, the small person and I went off to the library to return the Fat Ladies and Michel and scout for new books for small to hide down a heating vent. After one marginally embarrassing encounter with a very tall man in the non-fiction stacks (I was staring at him fixedly for an inappropriately long period of time, trying to work out where I knew him from, and he started staring back, probably wondering who the nut job with the grubby hair and the grubby baby strapped to her was. Then I realised he is the guy who busks outside the library. Then I was wondering if it would be weird to point out that he’s the busking guy – which he’s no doubt aware of. That got me wondering if I did say that, whether he would then point out that I’m one of the irritating non-donators of coins, who just bustles past, failing to appreciate his endless playing of Hunters & Collectors. By this point I realised the only thing I should be doing was moving away at speed toward the nearest cup of tea. Fortunately he seemed to feel the same way and no awkward conversation happened at all.) I found three excellent books to drool over pointlessly while I wait for eggs: The Delia Collection: Baking, The Jewish Mama’s Kitchen and epicure: chocolate. More on those later.

Books in hand, we were on our way to the loans desk when I was struck by a vision – my library card, on the bench, in the bathroom (what can’t be used to distract a baby with while you brush your teeth/wash your face/dry the cat?) at home. Oh well, I thought, I’ll just give the librarian my details and she will kindly release the books from her custody. No. Impossible. Books cannot step out the door of the library without being accompanied by a blue plastic card. The rule cannot be bent. Precedents cannot be set. Looking mournful will not help. But then again it might… after stern reiteration of the rule, the librarian looked at the small person and asked me if he had a library card. He did not. Keen as I may be, a library card did not seem essential for a person too small to walk or carry his own stack of literature back to the car. I was wrong. Small person now in possession of his own card, which he generously used to borrow my books for me.