Last year we acquired chickens. After a traumatic first week, during which I staple-gunned myself inside the hen house, the chooks settled in well and became part of the homestead. The children gave them names; Mrs Greedy, Queenie and Princess Layer, which cemented their roles as family members and made it difficult for us to consider eating them when they destroyed my vegetable patch and scratched the lawn back to bare earth.
Over the last few months a disturbing change has occurred in Princess Layer. Her comb, the small red crest on her head, has swollen to twice its size and deepened in colour. Beneath her beak her wattle mirrors this newly acquired mohican; the heavy red flaps wobbling indignantly like an old man’s dewlaps as she struts up and down the run. Princess Layer has appointed herself Guardian of the Hen House, waiting until the others are in bed before she checks the run is free from intruders and retreats into the house, no doubt to break wind and hog the duvet.
Each morning it is Princess Layer who emerges first into the run, waking at the crack of dawn to demonstrate her husky morning voice. Midway between the happy bok-bok of her flatmates and the fully-fledged crow of a rooster, she is like a thirteen year old boy with no control over his vocal chords. I fear it is only a matter of time before Princess Layer takes charge of the remote control, leaves her socks balled up on the bathroom floor and the top off the toothpaste. In short, our chicken puts the he into hen.
Mrs Greedy and Queenie seem unaffected by this unusual turn of events, seemingly happy to be bossed about by one of their own. The children are mildly confused by Princess Layer’s apparent sex change, and should she continue to perfect her crow I suspect the neighbours will be plotting her demise. Me, I just think it’s a bit of a cockerel-up.
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