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Chanticleer and the Box
'Cock-a-Doodle-Do' to You Too!
Not One of the 'Canterbury Tales'
The requisites for Sunday dinner normally appear on my drive in the back of a Tesco delivery van, but not this week. Standing there, looking as if he already owned the place was a fully-grown, farmyard cock. As he strutted regally into my back garden, his comb red and "Crenelated as it were a castle walle," as Chaucer so aptly wrote in his "Canterbury Tales," I decided I'd better not let the cat out. Then I did something I would live to regret; I fed the hapless chicken some wild bird food and it decided to make itself at home, even though the threat of being eviscerated by the cat grew greater by the minute.
The aforementioned feline, who was luxuriating on the lounge carpet in front of the patio door, began to eye our feathered visitor menacingly even though he'd just munched his way through two bowls of Whiskas and some crunchy cat treats. The thought of ultra fresh, non-canned meat was far too tempting a prospect for him to resist. He'd already succeeded in decimating the mallards and moor hens that make their home on the mill pond behind our house.
I phoned the neighbours to see if they knew where the cock had wandered from, or perhaps even escaped from - after all Christmas was fast approaching. But no one knew.
"Maybe Santa got your message wrong," said one witty friend.
Yes, very funny. This was the first of a long stream of jokes and innuendos that would shortly come my way. If ever one word could cause so much laughter, then "cock" was it and when associated with an alternative word for cat, the source of amusement can be endless "Better keep it away from your pussy," another friend giggled down the phone.
"I already have," I replied, trying hard to keep a straight face. "At the moment, they're staring at each other through the patio door."
The post lady informed me that the cockerel had been wandering up and down a nearby terrace for about a week and none of the residents knew where it had hailed from. They had all apparently threatened to put him in the pot but none had been able to catch him.
I walked to the local garage to make further inquiries on the way to post my last batch of Christmas cards and then phoned the village store but no joy there either.
My husband was working away and unable as usual to come up with any useful suggestions. He would only say something like: "Leave me out of it - I'm hen pecked enough as it is." I had visions of him putting an advert on the shop's notice board: IF YOU WANT A NICE BIG COCK FOR XMAS PLEASE PHONE MR... On second thoughts - maybe not.
He phoned a female colleague who keeps chickens but it turned out she just has laying hens and only gets a cock in when she needs it. Now there's a sensible woman.
"Ask her if she needs a cock now," I urged, laughing at my request, even though I'd vowed to be serious about all this.
In desperation, I phoned the RSPCA, but by now it was getting late and all I got was a recorded message; something about visiting their web site and how to deal with stray dogs but not one word of advice on what to do with a homeless rooster.
I reckoned that by now the cat was getting desperate too and, since there was no litter tray for him in the house, I had to let him out to answer the call of nature. But as soon as the door was opened he clearly had other ideas, shooting round to the back of the house for his proposed chicken supper. I followed him and grabbed him by the scruff of the neck just in the nick of time. What I had to do now was get the bird inside first and then let the cat out - simple.
Wrong. Chickens have silly wings that don't work very well but they can still move pretty fast and I ended up chasing this one round and round the garden more times than the proverbial teddy bear. Maybe a trail of bird food would do the trick. No. My farmyard friend had been feasting all day and was no longer hungry. And anyway, where had the container full of bird seed disappeared to? One of my perpetually hungry children had assumed it was breakfast cereal, poured some into a bowl and was just about to add milk.
That did it. I needed a double brandy. With less than ten days to go until Christmas, it was high time I got into the spirit of the season anyway. Revived by the warming liquid, I went back outside and resumed my chicken chasing. At least the cat had by now fallen asleep. But Chanticleer, as I had affectionately named the new addition to our family was nowhere to be seen; it was raining now and becoming decidedly cooler.
The sight of me traipsing up and down my drive singing: "Chick, chick, chick, chick, chicken, lay a little egg for me," must have been all too much for my insurance man when he called for my monthly premium. "It's okay, love, you can pay me next time," he said, probably detecting the brandy on my breath.
Eventually, I found Chanticleer on top of the paper recycling bin, in my front porch, sheltering from the elements. After further feeding and watering, I fetched him some dust sheets and cardboard boxes from the garage and built a little coop around him, covering the lot with an old blanket. This was all very well until the cat woke up, came out and sat on top of my makeshift construction, gradually causing it to sag in the middle and nearly ending up on top of the sleeping chicken.
I hatched another master plan but removed the offending feline first. Managing to pick up the surprisingly docile chicken, I placed him together with his bedding inside the recycling bin. Holes were expertly drilled in the lid for air (don't tell the council) so the cat could now venture outside and the chicken remain safe. But it was still cold and eventually Chanticleer and the box ended up inside the house for the duration of the night.
Next morning, I was up at cock crow but Chanticleer slumbered on, not a solitary cock-a-doodle-doo out of him (maybe that was why he was homeless).
I phoned the RSPCA again and this time spoke to a real person who asked if lived in a rural area. When I said yes, she suggested I contact some local farmers to see if the chicken belonged to them. If not, they'd come and collect him. So I looked in the Yellow Pages where I discovered twelve daunting pages full of farmers and incidentally, there were four little yellow chicks on the front cover - something I'd never noticed before.
Meanwhile Chanticleer was up and around, pacing up and down the garden, surveying his newly acquired kingdom and once again the cat was grounded during daylight hours.
It was the evening of the Christmas plays up at the local school and as a last ditch attempt to reunite our Chanticleer with his rightful owner, I pleaded with the headmistress to ask the audience if anyone had mislaid a chicken. She forgot and I was by now well and truly eggs-asperated.
A friend who gave me a lift home, who apparently had farming connections said he might be able to relocate our Chanticleer. And now there was another revelation, one I hadn't even considered. My farming friend thought that our cockerel was actually a hen (so that's why he didn't crow). This has put an entirely different perspective on things and means I've written a five-page article without doing the proper research first. This article will thus remain my one and only attempt at "Chick lit." And if Chanticleer, sorry Pertelot, can lay an egg a day and a golden one on Sundays - I just might keep her.
The Whole Episode With The Cock Caused Me to Become a Vegetarian for the Next Six Months!
Has an incident with a farmyard animal influenced you to become a vegetarian?
The Story of Chanticleer and the Fox
© 2015 Stella Kaye