Life in the countryside
Firstly I would like to say I love living in the countryside and would never choose to live in a town or city, but I would like to emphasise that it isn't always the bed of roses, cows and home baked bread that many may imagine. Having spent many years of my life living in countryside locations I have some very amusing memories of the not so glamorous side of this way of life that I would like to share with you all.
The anecdotes and memories are so many that I feel it best to split them into two chapters to avoid exhausting your attention spans if I try to cram them all into one hub. I hope you enjoy chapter one enough to read part two.
The first true experience I had of living in the countryside was when we moved to a quaint cottage in the Guernsey Parish of St Andrew. At the time I was aged about 11 and a desperately keen animal lover. It wasn't long before I had convinced my parents to allow me to get some baby chicks in order that we could begin to produce our own eggs. The first 11 chicks soon arrived as a "waste product" of a magic act my Father had booked for one of his cabaret shows. At two weeks old they were now too big for the act so needed new homes. We willingly took these chicks home in anticipation of a future filled with free range eggs and cute clucking chickens scratching around our garden.
Initially the chicks needed to be kept indoors, so my Grandmother who lived with us was quickly nominated to share her bedroom with the large box the chicks were temporarily to be housed in. She willingly agreed as this ensured a steady number of visits from myself to her room in order to tend to the chicks well-being. After a week or so the chicks were looking a bit grubby with dried chick meal on their fluffy bodies. In my wisdom I decided the best course of action was to give them a bath, so taking them into the garden along with an ice-cream tub of warm water I proceeded to dunk each chick in turn into the water in order to clean them. Poor little mites must have been freezing as they frantically tried to crawl back into the safety of their box, and by the time I took them back into the house none of them could stand up. I felt awful, and as my parents were out I secured the ever willing services of my Grandmother to hold the chicks in front of our coal fire until they were all dry and fully recovered. Amazingly they all survived, although my conscience still bothers me to this day as to what I put them through.
This is not the end of the story however, as eventually the chickens were moved outside into the hen coop we had at the end of our garden. Eagerly we awaited our first eggs, and waited.... and waited. About this time we realised that against all the odds all 11 of our chicks had ended up being cockerels and were never going to be laying us any eggs! Oh well, second time lucky! We took on a further two lots of chicks in the hope we would be more fortunate this time, and we were. Unfortunately we had forgotten that having 11 cockerels to about 20 hens was not a great idea, and it wasn't long before we had 11 cockerels all doing their level best to assassinate each other, and us, whenever we tried to collect the eggs! Something clearly had to be done, and so we reluctantly allowed a local farmer to remove 9 of the cockerels in the dead of night in return for him using them for his next 9 roast dinners!
The remaining 2 cockerels were named "Little Horror the 1st" and "Little Horror the 2nd", and boy did they live up to their names! To say they were vicious would be an understatement, and no-one was safe. It became a case of drawing straws for whose turn it was to collect the eggs or feed the chickens, especially as each time anyone approached the hens the two cockerels would attack the intruders with great enthusiasm. Eventually "Little Horror the 1st" was given to a neighbour to take care of her hens, and "Little Horror the 2nd" was allowed to remain in sole charge of our hens. Things did not improve as he would sneak up behind us and attack each time we ventured into the garden. Before too long we were going down the garden armed with either brooms or rakes to defend ourselves. My Father used to find this highly amusing and told us not to be so "bloody daft", that was until we sent him down to collect the eggs one day and when he returned he was calling "Little Horror the 2nd" all the names under the sun. Apparently the cockerel had sneaked up behind Dad and attacked him, leaving a large bleeding gash in Dad's leg where the cockerel's spur had pierced through his trousers. After this event it became my job again to collect eggs and feed the chickens. At least twice a whole bowl of eggs ended up smashed where I was targeted and threw them at the psychopathic bird.
Ultimately "Little Horror the 2nd" was also sent to the farmer for roasting, and the next cockerel we obtained proved to be far more sociable, only killing rats and not humans.
Some years later we moved house to a larger property that was essentially a farmhouse. We continued to keep chickens, but decided it might be a good idea to get a goat too. As per usual this was my brilliant idea, and before long we had bought a British Saanen goat called Trixie.
At this point in time she was a maiden milker, and due to not having had kids she was only producing a very small amount of milk. We were already having great fun trying to milk her at all as she appeared to be ticklish around her udders. After many buckets of milk being spoiled by her hooves kicking them over or being inserted into the creamy liquid, we decided it was time she was mated so that she might become more accepting of the milking process.
We must have managed to get the only goat on the island who had an abject terror of Billy goats, and when we took her to be mated she was mortified at the very idea of sexual intercourse. After a couple of weeks of her vigorously rejecting the poor Billy goat's advances we brought her home and continued to keep her as a pet who simply produced a cup or two of milk every few days, problem being it now took two of us to milk her, one to milk (me) and one to hold one of her legs in the air so she wouldn't kick the bucket over (Mum). Not really worth the effort for the milk retrieved, but she was a pet now and we would not have parted with her.
The saga of owning Trixie was not over yet though as I had read that goats liked to be walked along the country lanes so that they can graze on the hedgerows. I thought this sounded like a lovely idea and promptly bought Trixie a lead and took her for her first walk..... huge mistake...I rapidly realised she had a hatred for dogs, all dogs in fact with the sole exception of our own dogs. The realisation hit me at the point we had achieved a walk of about 50 metres down our local country lane. Suddenly a Border Collie dog appeared in the lane some metres ahead happily minding his own business and sniffing around as dogs do. Trixie took one look at this poor unfortunate mutt and took off in his direction with me being hauled along like some kind of out of control water-skier behind her. Saanens are very large goats and it was like trying to stop a train for a skinny 12 year old girl, and essentially all I could do was hang on as best I could to the end of her lead. We must have made a pretty spectacular sight as the poor Collie had turned tail and was running flat out back towards his home, shortly followed by a large white goat, (whose lead by now I had been forced to release), and me several yards behind. The petrified dog flew back into his owner's garden, closely followed by Trixie, who was equally closely followed by me. The owner of the dog was on his roof fixing a loose slate and to say he nearly fell off the roof laughing was an understatement. I could have died of embarrassment as I apologised profusely and grabbed Trixie's lead before hauling her back home again leaving the amused owner and traumatised Collie behind me.
Bad decision number three came in the form of two geese our doctor gave to us. These geese hated us on sight and showed a total lack of appreciation for any of the food we provided for them. Most days I discovered the beasts had flown from our land to join a nearby farmer's flock of geese, and I would dutifully have to go and retrieve them one at a time and carry them home by the base of their wings whist holding their heads with my remaining hand to avoid being attacked by their beaks.
On the rare occasions they decided to hang around for a day or two they would attack us on sight, hissing angrily and arching their wings at us. Our chickens were completely stressed out by them and had now stopped laying in protest, even the dogs were scared stiff of them, plus we had only ever had about three eggs from the female goose in several months. It was about now we asked our farmer neighbour if he wanted to keep them the next time they flew on to his land. Luckily he agreed, and although the whole flock of his geese mysteriously vanished at Christmas I am sure they enjoyed their time spent living on his land.
Okay, you think we would have exhausted the problems a chicken could potentially cause us...... well, actually no we hadn't. We went on to experience such weird events as our Mother accidentally reversing her car over a rather daft chicken that chose to go to sleep behind her back car wheel (failing to move when the engine started), sadly that chicken had to be dispatched to its maker with the back of a spade, and was definitely not suitable for any dinner table due to a large tyre track running through the middle of her body! Another occasion my Mother went to collect the eggs and found a semi-dead rat asleep under one of the chickens that was in her nest box waiting to lay an egg, (not a great experience for a woman with a major phobia of rats). Then we had the experience of having to rescue a young chicken from a hedgehog we caught dragging it along the garden by its leg. Fortunately for that chicken Mum managed to "set" its broken leg using a lollipop stick and tape, and it survived to adulthood in spite of a slight limp! The final memorable event was our return from a 2 week holiday, when we found a houseful of feathers. Upon further investigation we realised that on the day we had left, a chicken had clearly wandered into the house unnoticed and been locked in. Somehow the chicken had survived the fortnight by eating crumbs from the carpets and finishing off the water left in the dog bowls. A very emaciated chicken staggered out of the house after we discovered it, yet it went on to recover fully, although not so keen to come into the house in the following years!
I hope you enjoyed this enough to keep your eyes open for chapter 2 which will be coming soon. Trust me you won't want to miss it!
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