I looked up the weather forecast to see the sunset was 8.05pm. Perfect timing. We decided at the last minute to do it, but afterwards I wished I’d left it and been more organised. I definitely couldn’t do it on my own but I knew seven year old Wheriko would be a good helper. She has a real affinity with animals and no matter how flappy the hens get, she’s usually not fazed at all, however, by the time we got organised, it was getting pretty dark. Scissors in hand and torch at the ready, we headed up into the hen house.
The kids were covered from head to toe for mozzies but they don’t normally bother me, so I very cockily was in shorts and singlet. We opened the door and I was surprised to see the three young ones on the top rung and the older residents on the bottom rung. Wheriko’s been saying for a few weeks now that one of the new chicks is shaping up to be a rooster with thicker thighs, a fluffier neck, a slightly bigger comb and I wasn’t quite sure until now. If she is indeed a he, that would explain the top rung and his two sisters as sidekicks made sense. I really, really hope it’s not a rooster, but tonight’s escapade made it look even more so.
Wheriko was excited about playing a very important role. She was to help catch and hold each hen while I cut back the longer feathers of an outstretched wing. This would make them unbalanced and stop them from gaining access to the roof of the recooperation unit and the outside fence from there.
Kahu, who was less sure about this whole business and losing confidence by the minute, was instructed to stand back a bit and shine the torch on said wing. ‘Treasure’, as Wheriko has named her is black, speckled, and very tame and ‘loves’ or I should say tolerates Wheriko’s constant pettings and was the obvious first target. She is the whole reason why we are doing this as she is constantly flying over the fence from a vantage point she easily flaps up to, and then causes a great deal of consternation from the others who then want to get out. Wing cut and through the hatch, we push her down the hole and onto number two, and quickly number three, who both do a good deal of squawking making Kahu even less sure about being trapped inside the hen house, as the light was fading very fast.
“It’s ok Darl”, I reassured her as we held number five who was particularly vocal but just as I said that Wheriko let out a blood curdling scream ‘shut uuuuuuuuup!’ Which gave ME a bloody fright and nearly sent Kahu out the door and into the the darkness beyond. “Jesus Wheri, what the hell was that for?” I ask. “I didn’t like the noise” she says smiling.
The torch wavered as Kahu quiveringly expressed a need to go see her Mummy. “We won’t be much longer sweetie” I said as I reached for possible rooster to speed up the process but man did he put on a fine performance. He had his neck feathers fluffed up and both wings pulled free and he flapped as if his life depended on it, while kicking with his strong legs. I struggled to get him back down to the ground and turned to Kahu who by now was just two big brown eyes with her body pressed up against the wall, so dark it had got.
Just hold the torch up so Nanny can see so I can be fast, I said quietly trying to instill a ‘calm, can do’ attitude. “I can’t do it any more” Kahu said backing further away from the possible rooster. “Take the torch” I said to Wheriko. “Do you want to hold him while I cut or do you want to cut?”
“I can’t hold him, she said suddenly not so sure either now… and I can’t cut Nanny”, she added decidedly. Hmmm I contemplated wringing his neck but decided I probably should watch a u tube of that first. I had seen Gilbert kill a rooster we had years ago that was such a mean bastard even I was scared of him. Gilbert went to wring his neck like he’d seen his Father do many times, but underestimated either his own strength or the necks weakness, I’m not sure which, and the head came completely off in his hand. He got a fright and let the rooster go and it ran around headless. The kids and I were slightly traumatised by this as newbies to the whole small block thing, and to be frank…I never want to see that again.
“Get Goong Goong, I instructed Kahu. Tell him Nanny needs him very quick”. I’d hardly got the words out than the door banged shut and she was gone. I knew he was watching rugby and wouldn’t be terribly impressed, but there was no way I’d be letting this bastard go now I had him settled under a firm grip, only to catch and do it again tomorrow night.
Wherikos eyes were bright with excitement as she laughed about how he had tried to escape but I was starting to feel the unmistakeable nibble of mosquitos. “Shine the torch on my arms Darl. Somethings biting me”. Wheriko lifted its beam to my arm and bloody hell there were mosquitos all over the exposed bits of my sweaty body. “Quick, I demanded, Hit them Wheriko”, and hit them she did. Slap, slap, slap, she had a jolly old time shining the light up and down and exclaiming over how many she was getting while I twitched and shook my head and bum like an annoyed horse. If only I had a tail!
Gilbert finally came in and crouched beside me picking up the scissors and once he was done we got the others done real fast and got out of there. “That was cool Nanny”, Wheriko giggled as we shut doors and switched off outside lights. “I’m sweating all over”, she squealed to her Mum who pointed at the bathroom door with the command ‘Shower!’ that brooked no refusal. We both dived into separate showers and later were acting out for Tai how the wannabe Rooster fluffed up its feathers and gave us a run for our money. We had to promise we would let Tai be in on the act next time as he was bitterly disappointed.
Hens vying for their spots come dusk. Spot the rooster….
Post Script…He started crowing this morning at 5.30am. Nothing wakes me so I got a full report from Gilbert at breakfast. “What should we call him”, I asked the kids. “Henry!” One of them yells out, which seems perfect given he’s gone from a hen to a Hen-ry. “Razor” Gilbert says. “Cause he’s living on a knife edge”.
Hmmm, better find that u-tube video on dispatching to the pot in case he starts to give us trouble. In the meantime I won’t say no to a clutch of chickens. Get busy Razor.