A funny thing happened in the henhouse. Colin, one of our two Black Orpington cockerels went from being pre-teen chicken to full grown in-you-face cockerel in what seemed to be a matter of days. During the snow, they refused to go outside, preferring the relative warmth and dryness of their home in the piggery to venturing forth across the frozen, snowy wasteland of their chicken run.
Every morning I'd open up the door and Dot or Delilah, (I don't actually mean one or the other, I just can't tell them apart unless they stand side by side so Delilah can show off her bigger feet!), our buff Orpingtons would do a quick recce of the outside world. Snow meant she would turn her back in a flounce of feathers and annouce (I presume) to her henhousemates that today they would be having a duvet day. No amount of coaxing or bribing could change their minds, they were staying in and that was that!
We'd feed and water them inside the piggery which has no lighting, pigs not being particularly partial to a spot of light reading before bedtime, and then at night do a headcount to make sure no brave bird had made a break for freedom and shut them up. It meant that for the best part of a week, our hens were little more than outlines in the gloom and the piggery became distinctly squishy underfoot. How do hens manage to poo so much?
Finally the day dawned that the snow melted. Delilah (or Dot) announced that today they would venture forth into the outside world.
One by one they trooped down the ladder into their run. First came Cookie, our little Lemon Cuckoo bantam cock, small but perfectly formed, followed by Delilah and Dot (but not necessarily in that order) swishing their feathery bottoms, sure in the knowledge of their beauty and then Martha and Mavis, the two Black Orpington pullets, equally impossible to tell apart as their ginger friends, pushing their way down the ladder two abreast like a couple of unrulyl teenagers. Bringing up the rear was Dilly, the only surviving Lavender Orpington and the baby of the henhouse and adopted daughter of Dot (or is it Delilah?)
But hang on a minute, what was this? Strutting down the ladder, resplendent in his black plumage came Colin who only a few days previously was a grumpy adolescent. The greyish comb and wattle now twice the size and fiery red, the spiky tail now a fountain of irridescent black feathers. He was all 'man' and proud! He puffed out his chest, threw back his head, opened wide his beak and crowed. It sounded like a comedy ghost from an old Scooby Doo cartoon, more a wail than a crow. Oh well, it's not perfect but it's a start! Behind him came Clark, younger by a few weeks, still in that gawky teenager stage, his comb not quite red, his tail a bit like a bad haircut. Not to be outdone by his masculine housemate he gave the crowing a go. It was more like a strangled cat. He looked slightly embarrasses, his wings drooped and he fairly stomped off to sulk in a corner.
Once out in the run with the girls, he could barely wait to give free rein to his cockerelly urges. Sneaking up on Dot and Delilah, unfortunately the only two fully mature hens, and without so much as a 'what's your name' or an evening of romantic courtship at Jamie Oliver's new restaurant in Bath, in fact, before either had even finished their breakfast, he had his wicked way with them, pecking furiously at the startled birds. Now I should say, and I know some may find this shocking, <whispering> my girls have previous 'history' if you know what I mean. Cookie has been getting up to no good with them for some time now but being a vertically challenged bantam to their statuesque build his ministrations are somewhat gentler and more delicate, if only because any sudden movements mean he falls of his amoreuse and she makes a bolt for the undergrowth leaving his clucking frustratedly. Colin, on the other hand was all 'wham, bam, thank you ma'am', leaving them shaking their feathers in a very 'well I never did!' fashion.
So far the men get on well. Cookie, despite his diminutive size, has firmly established himself as 'head cock' and Colin is happy to take the number two spot. The only problem comes when Clark reaches full 'cockhood' which is, I think, only a matter of weeks. If Mavis and Martha are still not quite on the boil (figuratively not literally I mean) then that just leaves poor Dot and Delilah to deal with the attentions of three cockerels and I'm not sure I want my beautiful girls suffering a daily gang rape. Even The Husband has noticed that Colin has a bit to learn on the wooing front and that his violent assaults are not necessary but he has so far resisted requests to do the needful to either Clark or Colin so they are less 'cock of the walk' and more 'cock au vin' (sic). It's not that he is averse to the whole chicken despatching thing, he does it regularly for a friend (I mean for her hens!), it's just that he thinks that they are too beautiful for such a fate - and he does have a point. There is no finer sight than Colin strutting around the orchard while the girls make eyes at him. Colin the Cockerel he may be but he's the Colin Farrell of the chicken world, ruggedly handsome but with just a hint of danger. I couldn't bear to eat him. So if anyone wants a rather splendid black cockerel who is sure to keep the ladies happy let me know.
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