Do eccentric people know they’re eccentric? Or is it obvious to everyone except themselves? At some point I think we may have crossed an invisible border. We left the land of predictability and voyaged into the unconventional. I tell you what, I’ll let you be the judge. This blog post is all about a chicken hotel, running low on marmite and drinking cheap wine from vintage tea cups.
One morning, the 17th of March to be exact, we went food shopping and returned with the addition of four chickens to our growing menagerie. It all happened quite spontaneously, although having chickens has been something we’ve dreamed of for a long time.
The conditions that the chickens (and meat rabbits) were being kept in was horrific. We were torn between buying into a business we don’t support, and rescuing these poor hens from a miserable existence.
They looked at us through metal bars, never having known freedom or the feel of soil beneath their claws. In a split second of impulsiveness, we agreed to take four and vowed to love and care for our new feathered friends. The only consolation is that a lot of people let their chickens free range here, so I hope that the others found a lovely home too.
On arrival at home, they huddled silently in a corner and refused to eat anything except pellet food. They looked like chickens, but a life devoid of compassion had stripped them of their basic chicken rights. Here we were, providing them with freedom, trying to tempt them with vegetable scraps, wondering why they looked so puzzled.
The chicken hotel idea was born…
What better way to make up for their miserable introduction to the world than to build them a luxurious five star chicken hotel amidst olive and citrus trees? It only seemed right. Our girls deserved more. These chicks needed more than a make shift shack. And so, the creation of the deluxe chicken residency commenced.
Mr Sidestepping-normal tirelessly measured, planned, cast a concrete base, realised he’d measured it wrong and then added an extension. Walls were built, a roof was added, and before long, a basic shelter emerged. We could have called it a day and moved the chickens straight in, but a) we’d promised the chickens a hotel , and we’re not the kind of people to let a chicken down. b) The grey concrete was such a depressing colour and I worried about the psychological implications of living in such a dispiriting hue, and c) Mr SN wanted to practice his plastering and tiling skills.
That being said, we held off, and the chickens continued to sleep in Dora-dog’s old crate whilst work continued. Within a few days, the concrete-block walls had been plastered with bright white plaster, and the floor had been tiled with a mis-match of leftover tiles. The resulting effect was eclectic, tasteful and cosy. It was only missing a few home touches; completion was near.
The finished chicken hotel…
Voila! The girls now have a hotel fit for chicken royalty. Just in case passing chickens wanted to book in for a few nights, we made a sign. Five stars? Is that a bit of a stretch? Well, the perches are heated in winter, the Egyptian cotton towels are changed daily, there’s a Chinese buffet on a Friday and in-house entertainment in the evenings. They’ve got it good.
Planning a party to celebrate…
Mr SN had done us proud, and in recognition of his tireless work, it seemed fitting to hold an opening party to mark the momentous day. I think an apology is in order, sorry you didn’t receive an invite. You know what it’s like…you’re planning a huge event, the matter of who to invite can get tricky and family politics are a nightmare. The invite list was getting longer and longer. It was proving difficult to find a jazz band to play on the roof (my idea) at such short notice, and it crossed our minds that the world being in Coronavirus induced lockdown may hinder people’s ability to attend. We didn’t want to offend anyone, so we opted for a small scale event. You know, less fuss, a select few of our nearest and dearest.
“Put a nice shirt and trousers on.” I insisted to Mr SN.
“Can’t I just wear my work clothes?” He complained.
I vehemently opposed and insisted on him wearing something appropriate for the celebratory occasion. He conceded and found a nice outfit, but in rebellion he wore an old pair of crocs splattered in paint.
For the occasion, I wore a little black dress and matching pearl earrings and necklace. I cast my mind back twelve years ago when I bought the dress second hand from the charity shop as an outfit for a fancy dress party. I donned the said dress sprayed half my hair white, put on shocking red lipstick and added an animal print scarf in the hope that I’d somehow attained the appearance of Cruella De Vil.
As I regarded myself in the mirror and applied red lipstick I noted that I was only a few Dalmatians away from achieving the look again.
The chicken hotel opening ceremony…
The grand unveiling was low key and private. The guest list was whittled down to myself, Mr SN and….yeah that was it. It was just the two of us. I rooted around my craft supplies and came across a red ribbon and bow. Admittedly the ribbon repeatedly said ‘Merry Christmas’ along it’s length, but you can’t have everything perfect can you?
Moving day had arrived, and just before the night began to fade, we cut the red ribbon with blunt scissors and professed that the chicken hotel was open for business. The chickens, who had so eagerly anticipated the day, were overwhelmed. We could tell this by the way they showed no interest in their new dwelling at all.
To mark the special event, we drank cheap wine out of vintage tea cups, whilst swatting away mosquitos in the dusky night air. I’d like to tell you that we partied late into the night, but in fact we got into our pyjamas, had baked potatoes (cooked in our solar oven) and discussed what we’d do if we could change the world.
If I could change the world…
“The first thingI’d do is make it easier to get the last bit of marmite out of the bottom of the jar.” Said Mr SN. I raised my eyebrows at him. “Actually” he added “I’d make it compulsory for all glass jars to be the same and they wouldn’t be allowed to have any fancy rims or designs.” As he said this, he scraped at the bottom of a marmite jar in frustration, before adding the dregs to his buttered baked potato. I could see his point, but perhaps a balance of more pressing issues in conjunction with a review of the shape of marmite jars*** would fix the worlds problems.
*** I’m thrilled to inform you that we just found another jar of marmite towards the back of the cupboard. It’s half full…or half empty deciding on your perspective.
I’m sitting down in the chicken area with a happy hen on my lap. Her feet feel hot and she lets me stroke her neck, whilst making a gentle cawing sound. The hot day is clouding over but it’s still lovely and warm. The other chickens are pecking affectionately at my feet. The olive trees show the promise of tiny olives forming and the citrus blossom is just going over.
Since the opening of the hotel, egg production is at full capacity. We now have all four hens laying. Our girls have gradually transformed into brave characterful birds. They now spend their days roaming freely within the confines of their enclosure, foraging for weeds and bugs, and eagerly awaiting leftover scraps from the kitchen. They’ve found their confidence and now call to each other with little clucks and squarks in-between dust baths.
What we’ve learnt…
As I sit here watching them scratch around, I can breathe deeply with the knowledge that our hens are happy. The last week has highlighted that buying cheap factory farm eggs comes at the expense of animal welfare. Chickens are extremely beautiful, enchanting creatures and I’m grateful for the eggs they provide us with.
So there you have it. Our grand opening may have been lacking the gentle tinkling of live jazz in the background and a round of applause from a clapping crowd, but it did involve drinking cheap rosé with my favourite person in the world. Through this experience I’ve learnt that a) sometimes we should shed our dirty work clothes and make more of an effort. b) At some point I really want a real party with a live jazz band, c) I’m not sure if we’re eccentric or not, but we certainly don’t conform, and d) It’s handy to sharpen scissors before cutting a red ribbon.
UPDATE: Mr SN has now started on a chicken playground…as of yet, there’s no chicken-swing-action to report, but I’ll let you know if that changes…All being well, we’re hoping for a least one entry into gymnastics category at the 2021 chicken olympics.
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