SEVERAL months ago my backyard chookhouse had a midnight visit from nasty Mr Fox.
Daybreak revealed this heinous henhome invasion had wiped out 50 per cent of my flock. I was left with two seriously traumatised and unproductive chooks who, after a couple of months, had yet to yield a single egg between them. So I purchased four more birds and put the non-producing pair on notice.
Anticipating I may have to lop the head off one or both in the near future, I needed a practical method of separating them from the flock without isolating them.
It’s impossible to buy plastic leg rings in Canberra, so I delicately dabbed a small dot of nail polish on one leg of one chicken and on both legs of the other. Without the expertise in tinting and tone of a nail technician, I’d flamboyantly chosen OPI’s Passion Pink.
The new chickens began producing sooner than expected. Each day we gathered four small eggs and about every five to seven, a fifth and much larger goog appeared in the box.
At this point I wasn’t sure if the larger weekly offering was from one of the “painted ladies” or both. With no time to observe the nesting routine, I tossed a coin.
The old chook with both legs painted lost the toss and was now “dead chook scratching”.
Unable to bear the thought of a chook losing its head for not doing what most chooks do, lay eggs, a friend offered to adopt my middle-aged hen and retire her to the peaceful sanctuary in her vast backyard.
However, this is where things began to unravel. Within 20 minutes of arriving at her new home the non laying hen, laid an egg!
Then came the texts:
Her: Matilda killed Pom Pom and now Matilda is depressed.
Me: Who is Pom Pom?
Her: My chicken.
Me: Okay, who’s Matilda?
Her: Your chicken.
Me: Now I’m depressed.
Pom Pom had been with the family for a long time. My haughty hen just struts in, takes over and slays the incumbent. Will there be litigation? Was I negligent in knowingly giving custody, to an unqualified person, of an undiagnosed “non-laying” hen.
Had I mitigated Pom Pom’s murder by failing to fully prepare Matilda for early retirement and pushing her over the edge?
I have no legal training but “actionable” is one legal term which may yet interrupt my sleep. By recklessly “retiring” the wrong chook had I willfully (getting used to this legal jargon) exposed the tranquil harmony of a retirement backyard to a murderous fowl? I simply don’t know. Nor do I need to know the forensic detail of the method by which Matilda did Pom Pom in.
The fate of the other “painted lady”, the now confirmed non-layer? Due to legal advice I am unable to answer. The astute among you would have noted the almost total absence, in this yarn about chooks, of corny poultry puns, apart from the headline. There is a reason for this rare discipline. A serious and sensitive treatment of this tragic tale may be my saving grace should this case get to a court of law.
This is an edited version from Mike Welsh’s blog “Mockery of Shockjockery, thoughts of an ex radio shockjock”.