« Clear Off! » I yelled, as I launched myself out of the door in a full frontal attack.
The dog, who had been dozing on the mat, suddenly sprang into action, throwing herself eagerly into the midst of the roosting hens, in a melee of squawking and barking. I chased them away from my front steps and into the henhouse on the other side of the courtyard, with more vehemence than I would usually show for this daily ritual. They probably won’t lay eggs for a week, I thought guiltily as I went back to inspect the damage.
Our house remains unfinished in many places, the main entrance being one. In the absence of steps, concrete blocks lead down to the front door. It is here, that the entire brood of my mother-in-law’s hens, plus cockerel, likes to sit, whilst awaiting the twilight signal to return to their enclosure, a small room beneath the old farm house. Much to my dismay, the dog, who spends all day running after the chickens, rounding them up like sheep, seems strangely unbothered that in the evening, they should congregate on her home turf while she snoozes in a carefree stupor.
I looked down at our makeshift steps and groaned. A grey, liquid puddle was spreading across one of the concrete blocks like a gravy stain on a t-shirt. I couldn’t use the broom on that without seriously shortening its lifespan; I would have to scrub it down with something stronger.
This was adding insult to injury, I grumbled to myself – as if the damage to the garden wasn’t enough. Whenever I planted anything, the entire brood would suddenly appear and scratch around in the newly turned earth, pecking my bulbs to oblivion or kicking them into the grass. I had more anemones growing in my lawn than in the flower beds.
I started to scour the steps vigorously, alternatively weighing my options. A supply of fresh, free range eggs was probably worth a daily scoop of poop. On the other hand, a slowly boiled hen, cooked in leek stock and served with chilled garlic mayonnaise…now that sounded like a marriage made in heaven.