Cast - Me (Mum), 18y.o daughter, 20mth old son and starring - (in pecking order) Gorgeous, Curious, Rasputia, Penny, Tufty and Priscilla.
Our lovely ladies live in a chicken mansion. Dad, Husband, the kids and I all helped to build the mansion from digging out the footings, to using about $1000 of wood left in the shed, to hanging the lantern outside. The ladies were purchased (saved) from the nearby egg farm at point-of-lay, so were only young ladies eight weeks ago. Today, they are proud to show us the eggs that they have all laid, all gathering and clucking with pride as 20mth old practises his counting (one, two, tee...) and places the eggs in his basket. The ladies have a huge grassed area with lots of shady trees, and then a sandy area where they line-up (truly!) and watch each other enjoy a dust bath. After this beauty treatment, they follow each other, scratch-step back-look, around the garden.
Feeling sorry for the chickens after two days of rain recently, we decided that they could have an excursion into the adjoining paddock. Out they troop with excited squwarks and cackels, in a beautiful line into the paddock. First stop is the discovery of the grey-water outlet where there is the exciting surprise of rice mixed with grimy water. Daughter is quick to explain that it wasn't her that forced the rice down the plug-hole, washing up after last night's dinner - must have been 14y.o son! Anyway, the hens have staked their claim and are enjoying their snack. We leave them to it, after 20mth old has tried to force-feed Tufty a stick, and traipse back inside.
It is sometime in the afternoon that we spy a hen on the other side of the garden, over the fence. To have arrived there, she had to have either flown or navigated her way through a maze of paddocks and fences. Having clipped their wings, the little bugger must have left the rest and gotten lost. As I go out to the fence line, I realise that it is Rasputia, and that behind her is Tufty! Daughter comes out and climbs over the fence, trying to catch the hens and throw them back over into the paddock. The other four chickens have since returned to their sanctuary, and are fighting over left-over tuna pasta. Rasputia and Tufty lead Daughter on a chase around the bushes and she nearly impales herself on a blackberry bush in the process. Disgustedly, Daughter gives up and we think to ourselves that if the hens managed to get there, they will be able to find their way back.
As the daylight fades, I can't help but look out worriedly at the two chickens over the fence. They are marching up and back, obviously having forgotten how to get back. When husband arrives home, I admit that I am worried about the chickens, and brace myself for the sarcasm that they will find their own way back. Instead he says that he will go and get them, and then lock the mansion door for the night. Husband arrives back in ten minutes with blackberry leaves in his hair and admits that he couldn't catch the girls.
That night, I am up worrying about the bloody chickens. It's only eight o'clock, but I am as anxious as I was when Daughter went out on her first date. Husband tries to alleviate my anxiety by telling me that they will be OK, and roost in the blackberry bush overnight. It is then that we hear a tapping on the bedroom window...rushing out of bed, Husband swings back the curtains to reveal Tufty, looking terrified and trying to roost on the window sill. Husband dons my dressing gown and a pair of thongs to save the chicken, on a chilly night of -1 degrees. Tufty is almost glad to see him, there is no running away now, and scoops down so that he can pick her up. Tufty is returned to the safety of chicken mansion.
Rasputia spends the night out, and is still alive although stressed out the next morning. Still stuck behind the fence, Daughter attempts another bout of lunges at her, but is unsuccessful, so we leave the gate at the side of the garden open to see if she will go through. Having a doctor appointment that morning and already running a bit late, we were throwing 20mth old into his car seat when we see Rasputia perched on top of the plantpot in the front garden. Muttering under her breath, Daughter goes after her and Rasputia is chased, herded, cajoled and sworn at until she is safely back in the chicken garden. I swear that they are never allowed out again.