Five fowl vignettes

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1. A foul fowl

Our son came to visit us at our former Welsh farmhouse, at a time when we kept hens and a cockerel. We were out at the time, but when we returned he told us how entertained he’d been by a particular hen we’d recently acquired: she’d been strutting around on her own, as was her habit, ejaculating what sounded like a sneezed obscenity at intervals, and that had had him in stitches. Oh, we said, that’ll be Fuckit!

2. Herakles unchained

There was a time when our rooster lived up to his name, originally held by a semi-divine Greek hero. We’d heard that cockerels always defended their harems stoutly, even eyeing passing buzzards with an aggressive mien and leaping noisily into the air with alarm calls. Well, this one time we heard this loud vocal disturbance outside the window and, rushing out, what did we see but Herakles rushing around the lawn in circles with terrific energy and making terrifying noises. He was trying to see off a brilliantly-iridescent cock pheasant from his girls. As the pair played their game of tag around the lawn, rushing hither and yon amid excited hens, it must have been a good minute or so before Mr Pheasant realised he had unclipped wings and took to the air with a cry of cock-cock-cock. Herakles was well pleased with himself, calling his harem together and reassuring them by reasserting his conjugal rights with one of them.

3. As cluck would have it

When many Christmases ago, at a time when all mail was sorted by hand, I worked in a regional sorting office of the Post Office, above the sound of machinery I’d often see and hear a row of female workers who, with distinctive head movements and responses, always put me in mind of a coop of excited hens. When, decades later, we acquired our own hen-coop with resident fowl, I could only conjure up memories of those postal workers when, singly or in chorus, they began announcing, “Oh-it’s-coming, oh I’m laying an egg, oh it’s a big one…” crescendoing to the moment of delivery.

4. Jay-walking

You’ll have heard of the impossibility of herding cats, but I think trying to steer a flock of hens is almost as bad — when competing against a determined cockerel. Looking out of the window one day I was aware no free-roaming hens were in sight. I eventually discovered that Herakles had led his bevy through some minute gap or other in the hedge and was proceeding at a leisurely pace down the country road to the farm a quarter of a mile away. I did feel a proper Charlie trying vainly to redirect them back through the garden gate, hoping nobody would see my incompetency; Herakles expertly showed me up as a total inadequate while they continued on their merry way towards pastures new. Luckily for my reputation a trackway leading us all back to their usual stamping grounds emerged before any traffic appeared, and Herakles then eyed me triumphantly as if to say, This is where I was leading them to all along! I don’t know why we don’t call it ‘hen-walking’ instead of jay-walking.

5. Foxy Loxy pays a visit

I was standing on the lawn looking towards the henhouse and the last few of our free-range hens left after the depredations of Mr or Mrs Fox. A sudden movement to the right caught my eye. It was a vulpine shape, ruddy in colour, casually loping through the tall grasses of our wildflower meadow, Henny-Penny in its mouth. That was the last we saw of her, one of our last hens. She’d had a good life, and now a good death.


I was intending to post this on my Zenrinji blog dedicated to micropoems and other creative writing, but I’m already in the middle of posting an alphabetical series of Covid poems through March using the tag coronaverse (which, by the way, you might enjoy).

18 thoughts on “Five fowl vignettes

    1. Not read that, but from the synopsis it sounds as though it may have drawn somewhat from Dahl’s Fantastic Mr Fox and may even have been a part-inspiration for Aardman Animation’s Chicken Run:

      Liked by 1 person

      1. jjlothin

        I did see Chicken Run many years ago but I don’t actually know ‘Fantastic Mr Fox’. It could well be that Dahl was an influence, but ‘The Fox Busters’ does have a charm of its own – for me it has the edge over ‘The Sheep Pig’!

        Liked by 1 person

  1. I was chuckling along as I read your first four vignettes and then I got to the sad little tale of Henny Penny. Oh dear! A friend of mine keeps hens one of which is named Sybil and when she escapes and is being chased around the garden I always picture Basil Fawlty during one of his manic, despairing days…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A very vivid image! Your story reminds me of an ancient divinatory practice in which seeds were scattered on the ground and the pattern a hen made pecking them up would be a way of interpreting the future. A suitable post for your friend’s Sybil, perhaps, with her name and all… 😁

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  2. Many empathies here, including the Xmas post room.

    We have had a fair few ex-battery hens over time. After all they had been through it took about a week from arrival for them to settle in with us, and become part of the family.
    They are amazing. So loyal, affectionate… and, ok, noisy.
    We now have bantams – and they are completely different in character, just as affectionate, but nowhere so noisy.

    And yes, Xmas post – twelve hour days in freezing rain, dragging who knows how many bags. Four am start. Ah, days of misery they were.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I managed to avoid the delivery duties that Christmas, staying under cover in the sorting office by Bristol’s Temple Meads railway station; I’d had enough of pounding the streets as a paper boy by then. And these days all the posties seem to wear shorts in all weather’s, whatever’s that about?!

      Our hens were all from a nearby farm, I think, no rescues that I recall, when the farmer in a sweeping motion would scoop up hens by the legs and stuff them into cardboard boxes for transport. No bantams, though. If a hen happened to kick the bucket in a seemingly natural way (before foxy got her) she’d go into the septic tank, which was good for the waste digestion process — so we were told.

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    1. Ooer, not good, so sorry to hear that. I know foxes need to feed their cubs, and they’re opportunists, but it’s galling when they go for easy pickings and animals one has formed a relationship with.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Job done then, Jo, thanks! I do like to write the occasional bit of creative nonfiction, slightly exaggerated but essentially factual, and also laced with a soupçon of humour or irony. Glad you liked the touches I included!

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