Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Birds of Paradise - chickens rule, OK?

by iancochrane (writer), Melbourne, March 07, 2013

Credit: Ian Cochrane
Ebony, Jane & Marie-Claire

An extended family is not always family.

They sit in the kitchen – Mr and Mrs L – overlooking a backyard of woodpiles, wheelbarrows and tussocks of native grass. It’s early autumn. The pungent scent of the last of a rambling Chinese jasmine wafts across the yard and mingles with the smell of last night’s rain. The weekend menagerie headcount is underway over fruit toast and espresso.

Being Saturday, it’ll be hours before Little L, now 19 years old, emerges to join the human race. Inheriting Mrs L's good looks, he’s prone to late nights and a string of girlfriends.

At the rear of the yard the chickenhouse sits under giant lilly-pillies; `chookhouse' in Aussie speak. Strings of battered prayer flags flutter 'tween boughs. Spotted turtledoves coo and browse beside the newest acquisitions; three spoilt chooks.

Then there’s the four moggies of varied ages, reclining in assorted pose, each in black-and-white tuxedos that fool neighbours into thinking there’s only one cat ‘that gets around a bit’.

Of the feathered newcomers, firstly there’s Marie-Claire the Belgian – a leopard-speckled breed called Mille Fleur or ‘a thousand flowers’. A highly-strung watchdog with cute whiskers, she warns the others of crows, or if a cat finds the energy to raise a yawn.

Then there’s the almost-twins, both fluff balls: Jane, a smoky lavender-grey, and Ebony, a shining black beauty with a green lustre. Jane’s the Labrador of the gang, the biggest glutton who loves a pat and a cuddle; any human an opportunity, deftly cadging food from the kind or unwary.

Ebony can be aloof, but prone to bouts of melancholy. In the centre of the yard is a lemon tree and beneath it ‘the pen’: an open wire cage propped on bricks, with ample food and water. That becomes `home’ when she’s taken with spells of the dreaded ‘black dog’ – or ‘broodiness’ in chook lingo – when she’ll refuse to lay and speaks in tongues; a continual baritone ‘cluck, cluck, cluck’. If left to her own devices, she’ll sit flattened and fluffed in the laying box for days on end; egg or no egg.

All three are bantams, with an inclination for multiple breakfasts and large feathered hobbit’s feet. They love a good dust bath and seem intent on tunnelling to China. Marie-Claire is short and sleek, with a thick neck and open tail feathers like a geisha’s fan. Both Jane and Ebony are Pekins, walking tea cosies with petticoats that billow in backyard breezes.

These are chooks of means – free-range girls – objecting vigorously and loudly, if left locked in their chookhouse any later than six on an autumn morning.

And by a strange twist of fate, they all happen to share the names of Little L's past girlfriends.

Now it’s noon, and Little L emerges from his upstairs lair. But, what’s that? There’s the pitter-patter of another pair of feet and an unfamiliar face appears from behind the door. "Oh...ahem...good morning," says Mrs L.

Little L looks a trifle sheepish as he shifts from one foot to the other. "This is Jessica," he offers. Across the table Mrs L, peers bemused over the top of her glasses. "Hmm," offers Mr L. "Does this mean we need another chook?"

About the Writer

iancochrane is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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3 comments on Birds of Paradise - chickens rule, OK?

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By melanie jean juneau on March 07, 2013 at 10:09 pm

lovely, vivid,funny

Since I am already an observer of chickens, I feel like i am sitting right there in the kitchen watching the drama unfold, except, I would be sipping strong tea

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By Barbara MacDonald on March 07, 2013 at 11:23 pm

Very imaginative Ian...they were having a "hen party" ...when I was young living on a farm, the chickens were my playmates...I named them all too...:-)

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By iancochrane on March 07, 2013 at 11:35 pm

Haha, thanks guys. Yes, they are so entertaining. We don't miss the TV @ all!

Cheers, ic

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