Friday 24 June 2011

The Good Life: Keeping Hens in the City

Some are born with a love of hens, some develop a love of hens and some just have hens thrust upon them.
My great grandfather was a poultry fancier. His love of hens was intertwined with his scholar’s fascination for genetics and his passion for fine tasting chicken and eggs. His knowledge of and love affair with poultry has been passed down through the generations as his descendents have continued to keep hens and quail.
The desire for organic produce resulted in our friends acquiring chickens which  kindled their love of hens. Then there are our neighbours who had 3 down-covered chicks thrust upon them after their child had hatched some eggs at school.
I need hens for stress release. For me, the rhythmic sound of cackling hens and collecting newly laid, warm eggs are therapeutic. .
So my Husband has had fowls forced upon him - on 2 occasions. Last weekend I purchased a pair of young Isa Brown birds, which should be laying within the month. A cheaper option to buying mature fowl, but not the preferred option for my Husband.
Their acquisition has heightened the tension in my household to such a level that the birds, yet to be named, now reside in my brother’s garden – a comfortable 10 kilometres away.
Recalling our last batch of egg layers which roamed the garden, was enough to raise my Husband’s blood pressure. Tractor cages were assembled, elaborate drinking contraptions erected and the repairs to our garden were never ending.
The final straw for my Husband was the birds’ untimely demise - a result of my wing clipping. The consulted manuals precisely described, and illustrated how to clip wing feathers – on one wing only.
My desire for symmetry resulted in my birds having both wings clipped. A mistake.
A  pair of clipped wings still enables a bird to become airborne, albeit quite low – but  enough to fly out of our yard (2 birds) and attempt to fly across our larger than average in-ground swimming pool. A reckless decision. The sight of 3 deceased fowl floating on the sparkling blue water and the need to extract another from the pool filter were enough to have my newly acquired Isa Brown hens banished.
Diminished stress for the Husband, heightened stress for me and one very happy brother who has inherited my grandfather’s fascination for “chooks”.