Rest in peace Aggie, my feisty feathered friend

Yesterday was a sad day. As I went to shut the girls in, I noticed a still, lifeless body in the run. Aggie, our feisty little brown chicken was no more. At first I thought a fox had got into the garden, but on closer inspection it simply seemed to be a case of old age.

We  adopted Aggie and Winnie a couple of years ago, and on reflection they have produced the most expensive eggs in the history of the universe. I don’t recall Aggie actually laying any eggs, and Winnie’s production line is sporadic, to say the very least.

First there was the expense of getting them a coop. It soon became apparent that although this was marketed for 4 birds, if they were going to walk around at any point this wouldn’t be nearly big enough (ever seen chickens doing a do-si-do?), so I bought a massive dog crate to use as an extension. Then we decided that we wanted something a bit more permanent, so off the OH went to the wood yard to spend just a bit more money on the girls,  and he built them a des res run . Oh, and then we had to get a couple more girls in, as by this point, we were still only on about one egg a week.

Mansion le Chook

In the early days, Winnie was by far the superior chicken, and Aggie was henpecked. At one point, she was so bald on the front that I thought she might have psychological issues, and actually be a self-harmer, which was quite understandable, coming from a broken home as she had.  I even made her a dress to cover her modesty…

Aggie's frock... one of the silliest inventions known to man

However, all that changed when we introduced Mildred and Maud, the two Marans from the RSPCA. All the helpful folks on the ‘tinterweb said to introduce new girls at night when they were all dopey. I diligently followed this advice, and stole down at dusk to pop the new ones into the roost. You would have thought I’d put a fox in there. The chicken house was banging about, and it soon became apparent that Aggie and Winnie did not want lodgers. This resulted in me having to separate the girls completely during the day for a few months. It was a long process, but worth it in the end as finally they all got on together, and peace was restored.

Well, peace was restored, but the pecking order changed somewhat. They say that the bullied will get their come-uppance… Aggie glided through the ranks with the stealth of a gazelle, and instantly became top chicken. She filled out, her feathers grew back thick and plush, and she even walked with a cocky little gait. Mildred and Maud (and Winnie, to some extent) were kept firmly in line.

Time went on. Aggie strutted (but didn’t lay), Mildred and Maud scarpered (and laid like troopers), and Winnie just kept out of the way. Aggie went a bit ‘crouchy in the summer, and we  thought we were going to lose her,  but after plopping out her last and final egg (with no shell on), she perked up no end.

Until yesterday. I gently removed her still little body, wrapped it up in bags, and gave her a dignified burial in the black bin. To my knowledge you can’t put dead chickens in with the recycling. A garden burial was out of the question, as we have a terrier who likes to dig things up, and I couldn’t face the thought of a tearful reuinion with  Aggie three months from now.

So, my final words on this subject are, “rest in peace, Aggie – you were a good egg”.

The girls got their mansion

After much pacing, measuring and nipping out for supplies, the other half was on a mission to get the new, improved chicken run built and finished, and get the girls settled into their new home.

The inspiration behind this was me deciding I was having a wooden greenhouse, so the chickens had to move so I could plan the next assault on the garden. So… whilst he was sawing and assembling in one part of the garden, I was merrily chopping down shrubs twice my height, and ripping out plants that I liked last week, but you know what? They are so yesterday!

After a solid day’s work, the chicken run was complete, a section of the garden was almost empty and the last job was to get the girls into their new pad. Easier said than done. Aggie and Winnie (our original non-laying-except-for-the-occasional-soft-jobbie hens) are tame, so they were a doddle.  Mildred and Maud are slightly skittier. I reached into the run and bingo! Took Maud unawares and triumphantly carried her off down the garden, with a smug look on my face that said “Oh yes, I’m a natural… I’m a chicken whisperer!”.

After a couple of false starts of reaching in for Mildred and her just running up to the other end out of reach, I reasoned that she

The new, improved chicken run

would be easier to catch if we let her out of the run. Hence the next hour was spent herding, chasing and cajoling a chicken up and down the garden, whilst trying to avoid an unhappy incident of her falling in the pond. Eventually we got her though, and the girls are now in Mansion le Chook.