Getting hens to move from coop by fair means or fowl

Columnist
Columnist

Clouds of dust across the yard from my kitchen window told me serious tidying up was going on in the big shed. John was sweeping out the straw, chaff and hay accumulated on the floor of the shed since last harvest. Getting ready for a clean tip up area for this year’s wheat.

Millie our Jack Russell was his close companion. Every few minutes she would pounce and triumphantly shake another mouse to death.

Where had the mice all been hiding? Rats are far more visible than mice and I would never have guessed we had such an infestation.

Natural I suppose with all the cattle food spillage, chick crumbs and chicken pellets that inevitably get scattered around.

Millie’s biggest triumph was a baby rat. Perhaps I comforted myself it was a left over from The Great Rat Hunt of several weeks ago. And perhaps not. Just the tip of a rat iceberg.

Once all the straw and rubbish had been swept into manageable heaps, John completed the job with the corn bucket.

Tipping the dusty piles into a heap at the back of the yard for the hens to delight in.

But to clear this space he has had to move all the coops I had constructed in the yard for my expanding chick population and their Mums. That evening chaos reigned.

The coops had only been moved a matter of yards in actuality, but they were now behind one of the big grain walls that John uses to split the shed space up.

Defiantly every flipping hen decided they wanted to settle down for the night in exactly the same space they had been occupying for the previous few weeks, whether there was a coop there or not.

The squawks and squabbling carried on for ages as I tried to persuade them, by fair means and foul, or even fowl, that it was only a matter of relocation, nothing more sinister.

But in other matters I have been worse than sinister.

Criminal in fact. Guilty of keetnapping as, surprise surprise, yet another of our guinea fowl has turned up with a clutch of keets.

But this was a clutch I could not allow her to keep.

Whoever she was. For when I found the keets straggling through the grass, at least six of the guinea fowl were claiming maternity rights.

Which fowl was which? I first spotted the clutch as I was driving out of the farm gate to a dental appointment. No time to stop.

I counted seven keets but by the time I returned home only five were in sight. On a wet afternoon two were already lost. Their survival did not seem assured.

Armed with an old fishing net of Jessica’s I scooped up the keets one at a time, to the wrath of the gang.

Popped them under the heat lamp with keets hatched out in the incubator. I plead guilty to the charge of keetnap, but know it was the right thing to do.