Thursday, 12 June 2008

That'll stop him whistling in Church!

Today is a landmark for the hen pen and the farm.

Since Babb’s turned into Basil over 2 years ago, the relationship between man and beast has been a temperamental one. You can never turn your back on Basil for a moment as he will plant his beak into your leg and has on several occasions drawn blood on me. I always justified his existence to myself in thinking that when we eventually get our meat birds set up on the farm, he would have the job of keeping the whole thing going and making sure that we continue to have fertilised eggs to hatch out.

Being heavily pregnant now, my protective maternal side kicked in this morning and I had to make a decision. I visited the hen pen with a bowl of bread ends and some salad as I normally do, as I approached the pen I could see Basil chasing Constance all over the place with a real attitude on his wings. I went to open the door to the pen and he immediately started lunging for me which made me raise my voice. Baby started kicking and I was annoyed that I'd shouted.

As Lavender and Betty are both broody at the moment I turfed them out of the hutch for something to eat and noticed on doing so that a screw had become loose on the flap to the nest boxes. I fetched a replacement screw and set about repairing the flap when Basil charged up behind me and tried to launch himself beak first at my legs. My quick movement sent me flying into the hen house and I was just trying to protect my bump. I picked up a piece of timber that I keep in the pen to keep Basil at bay, and shunted him to the side of the run and shouted at him again, but he was still in the mood for a fight so I knew I had to show my dominance over him. I squashed him to the ground by the back of the neck (not an easy job with Bail as he can spin around so fast and lock his beak into your arm) and shouted at him to stop. His comb went beetroot coloured with anger and you could see that he was outraged. He struggled to get free so I squashed him harder into the floor until he stopped squirming and realised I wasn't going to back down. As I had been shouting, baby was kicking furiously, obviously wondering what on earth was happening.

I let Basil free and for a little while he just stayed there not daring to move, then got up and clucked a bit and strutted off in the direction of the other hens. The whole ordeal left me feeling very emotional and upset, so I wiped the tears out of my eyes and left the hen pen for a breather. I just wanted to talk to my betrothed for some support so decided to give him a call. He arrived back home 5 minutes later with Charlie, a very good friend of ours, donning a pair of thick workman’s gloves. It was time, Basil had to go.

I went and stood in the kitchen next to the washing machine on full spin so to drown out any sound. I didn't think that would be enough so decided to call Mum as well and have someone to talk to as I knew the deed was being done. It’s a very hard decision to have to make when you've reared a bird from a 13 week old fluffy thing, nursed them through illness and made sure they have everything they need. I knew though that I would never be able to send my little girl into the hen pen on her own to collect eggs from the chickens, god knows what Basil would do. Chickens should be a happy fun thing, not something to be feared.

Eventually I heard the back door slam and voices from beyond the door. The deed was done and Basil is no more.

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