Friday, December 05, 2008

Bob Finds True Love

Once again a photo from Wikipedia. Actually they are called Frizzle hens, but she'll always be Frilly to me.

A while before moving to the Riverina Rebecca and I attended a local auction in search of plants. Typically for us we not only came home with a carload of plants, but three bantam frilly chickens. Now, when I say bantam, I mean bantam. These little hens never attained 15cm in height - the bantam Chinese Silkies towered over them! I don’t know if you’re familiar with the Frilly breed of chooks; they come in both standard and bantam sizes and are the shape and colours of a normal leghorn or Rhode Island Red chook. The only difference is that the Frilly’s feathers appear to have been stuck on the wrong way. Frilly feathers face forward instead of backwards giving the chooks the appearance of having been standing with their backs to an on-coming wind. Anyway, the Frillies were duly installed in the chook pen and managed to shake down happily with the other inhabitants. Life went on as normal (well, as normal as life had ever been on our farm).

After the move to the Riverina, all hens and Harley, our red rooster, were installed in the new spacious accommodation of the chook pen Graeme and the kids had built and once again all seemed to be going along smoothly. By this time my original standard sized hens had either died of old age, or gone through menopause, because egg production had ceased, with the exception of the occasional tiny Frilly or Silky egg. I bought eight new attractive, brown hens, guaranteed to lift my egg production and the aesthetic qualities of the chook pen (the old girls were well past their best looks). I also bought a new rooster because Harley had seen better days as well. I reasoned that Harley could move out into the house yard with Bob, our duck, and the two bachelors could live happily together. By this time the last surviving old Frilly was going broody with alarming regularity, so I decided to let her raise this clutch of eggs and achieve completion through motherhood. Bob was thrilled with the new brown additions to his harem,even if he couldn’t get to them. (You might remember Bob from a previous post - he had an identity crisis and thought he was a rooster.) He welcomed Harley to his side of the wire with a friendly nod and a quack. The two of them quickly became good friends.

Unfortunately, the new girls proved to be bullies. As soon as they moved in they set about revising the chook pen’s pecking order with them on top and the old ladies coming way down the list. Frilly caused social problems in many ways, not the least in her broody state, refusing to move at the new girls’ insistence. I came out to the chook pen one morning to find the poor little Frilly sadly lacking in feathers. The brown bullies had spent the night pecking out her feathers in an attempt to get her off her nest. The only thing that could be done about her in the new regime’s opinion was to eradicate her, one feather at a time. You see it all the time after successful political coupes. The incoming insurrectionist does away with the troublesome old order in an effort to gain supreme command over the population. What the chook pen had that these tumultuous nations don’t, is me. I wouldn’t tolerate the new girls’ stand-over tactics, nor their continuous attacks on the poor little Frilly. I duly gave her and her eggs political asylum near the back of the house in a specially made shade cloth, chook wire and star stakes safe house, complete with extra weather protection made necessary by her semi-nude state. Frilly settled in quite happily and returned to the serious business of incubating those eggs.

Then it happened. Bob was strolling around the yard one day, having a chat with Harley, when he stopped short in mid quack. He couldn’t believe his little ducky eyes. There, with only a little bit of shade cloth between them, was the prettiest hen he’d ever seen attractively nestled in her little corner with a vague, far away look in her eyes (Frilly’s normal broody look). Her unattractive, semi-nude state didn’t daunt Bob. He had fallen in love at first sight and remained unaware of her physical short comings. Bob quickly waddled over to her and dusted off all his old lines – “Haven’t I seen you somewhere before?”, “What’s a nice hen like you doing in a place like this?”, and his last and most effective, “Let me take you away from all of this.”

While Frilly had no intentions of being taken anywhere her eggs weren’t, she didn’t run away from Bob’s romantic overtures either, so Bob was convinced that he’d found true love at last. He bid a hasty farewell to Harley – how could his bachelor friendship matter when this little beauty was sitting there waiting for him? - and settled down to taking care of the little woman. Bob’s attentions were basically ignored by Frilly; she had a job to do and no amount of interruption from this overgrown and sadly deformed rooster was going to sway her from her mission in life.

Bob, realising that her babies would always come first, decided the way to win her heart was to show some interest in her confinement and to find little ways of making her wait more comfortable. He sat just outside her little shade cloth and chook wire covered maternity ward and plucked the down out of his chest which he then presented to Frilly as a love token with a gentle little quack of admiration. Frilly looked coldly at each feather and shuffled around on her nest, leaving Bob’s love tribute lying there on the ground. Bob obviously believed he just hadn’t found the right feather to temp her yet, because he spent most of his days scrabbling around amongst the feathers on his chest and surfacing every now and then with the best bit of down he could find, all to no avail. Frilly refused to consider any and all of these hard bought offerings.

Eventually Bob’s patience was rewarded, the eggs hatched and Frilly remained in her private accommodation until the chicks were big enough to go out into the world with her. I let them out of their safe house with a great deal of trepidation. Bob’s previous reputation with hens a lot larger than Frilly caused me to expect the worst. I really had no option, the little family couldn’t live permanently in that cramped accommodation and they couldn’t go back to the new regime in the chook pen. Thankfully, Bob proved that he was a reformed character. He followed Frilly and her brood at a respectful distance and didn’t try to force his attentions onto her even once. This happy state of affairs continued until the chicks were big enough to introduce to the chook pen. My garden is incapable of supporting a love struck duck, a rooster, a frilly hen and her eight scratching chickens, all looking for tasty morsels among the plants. Repatriation to the chook pen seemed to be the only move possible. By now the new brown hens had fought all their battles and ensconced themselves at the top of the hen hierarchy, so I was hopeful they’d ignore Frilly and her babies (all of whom where beginning to tower over their mother and take after their dad, Harley). The family were moved into the chook pen and, heaven be praised! settled in without even one skirmish.

The only casualty of the move was Bob. He no longer had Frilly to follow around, whispering his undying affection for her as he went. He had to content himself once more to spending his days sitting on the wrong side of the chook wire and trying, usually unsuccessfully, to entice Frilly over to his neck of the woods for a little tête-à-tête.

No comments: