Rachel Wise: Chic hens or poultry in motion?

By Rachel Wise

1 comment
Rachel Wise is a lifestyle-block owner and community newspaper editor.Jacoby Poulain is on maternity leave.
Rachel Wise is a lifestyle-block owner and community newspaper editor.Jacoby Poulain is on maternity leave.

Having a bit of land can give you delusions.

I think the deeds to a couple of acres should come with a disclaimer: This document does not mean you are automatically a farmer. Take advice before messing about with livestock.

But nobody tells you up front.

Real farmers like to wait and see how much entertainment they can get out of us lifestylers, then tell us where we went wrong. By then we know where we went wrong. You can usually tell.

Real farmers were probably shaking in their swandris with suppressed laughter when we bought our first sheep.

Much as my husband still maintains they were a good buy, I think he's just trying to save face, because they all died.

Not all at once - just, kind of, one or two at a time. They lay down, and when I propped them up they'd fall over again. There was no lack of grass, they just seemed ...

tired. After a few weeks of sheep-propping a real farmer finally took pity on us and muttered something like "cobalt deficiency". It was a bit late.

Our second attempt at sheep was better. Her name was Bounce and she too lay about a lot, but not in the same way as the previous sheep - she didn't need propping up. Eventually a real farmer said, "Lot of wool on that sheep - pop her around and I'll shear her for you."

So we borrowed a van and we person-handled Bounce aboard and drove her to the farm, where the real farmer prepared to tip her over and shear her and ...

Put his back out. He swore quite a bit and informed us that what he thought was a lot of wool was actually a lot of sheep - our Bounce was obese.

When he finally managed to shear her he doubled over again. This time with laughter. Bounce's haircut revealed a roller coaster of fat wrinkles from her forehead to her tail.

We took Bounce home and hid her in shame. She refused to get any thinner. The next year and the year after I shore her myself. With scissors. It took about a day and a half but it spared Bounce - and us - any further humiliation.

I finally admitted we'll never be real farmers when I trod on a big wet blob of chicken poo. In my socks. In my kitchen.

It's been that way ever since the chickens discovered the cat door. That morning I woke to the sound of clucking, not outside my bedroom window as usual but outside my bedroom door.

When you chase chickens out, they pretend they don't know the way.

I ended up with chickens in the shower, the pantry and under the dining table. I thought I had terrified them enough that they wouldn't repeat the performance but they are either really dumb (my bet) or too smart for me (also entirely possible).

Now, it's not unusual to see a line of chooks come through front door and file through the house and out the back door.

Yes, I could lock the chooks in the chook-house but that's the difference between real rural folk and lifestylers. Every time I lock them up I feel sorry for them and let them out again. It's the curse of the lifestyler. Livestock that should be penned up and subsequently eaten look at us with their limpid brown eyes (small beady eyes in the case of chickens) and end up with names, personalities, a home for life and the next best thing to a state funeral when they die of old age.

Even naming pet lambs things like Roast and Chops as so many lifestylers do won't help. They'll still end up in the back yard, not the oven. Consider you've been warned.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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