I spent last week looking after my neighbours' chickens. The neighbours were, of course, away. I didn’t just get a yen to enter their house, pass them at breakfast and start nursemaiding the livestock.
They (the hens) live within the wire-fenced confines of a secure, roofed compound. When their owners are at home, they roam the garden during the day. The door to the roosting box can be raised and lowered by a rope from outside the pen, but actually I was instructed just to leave it open.
Two days into my nannying, I summoned up the courage to open the pen (the water was plentiful, but they manage to fill it with mud in a very short space of time), convinced I’d spend the next half-day chasing them round the garden, if not other people’s gardens.
But — and I can now say this with confidence — Birds Aren’t Bright. No secret how “bird-brained” became an adjective. I merely had to shake the carton full of wild bird seed and they threw themselves at my feet, or head-first into their pen, depending on where I aimed the seed.
My duties ended this weekend, and I’m going to miss “the girls”. And the eggs that made one of the best soufflés ever.
Let’s just say I’m one step closer to getting chickens in the back garden.