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.
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).