Gallae sunt ibi divisa in partes duae

There are chickens next door. We first heard them making oddly unclucky noises and, forewarned by the neighbours, went upstairs to have a look out of the bathroom window. There are two of them, with toffee-coloured feathers and red, stupid heads; they scratch their way to and fro in the undergrowth that borders most of their garden. They’ve made more use of the zen contemplation corner, turning it over to look for whatever it is that chickens eat when free-range, than our neighbours themselves ever did.

I’ve blogged before about an entirely different one of what Looby called “very forward… Oxfordshire birds,” but now that we have some next door to us, I want to convey how happy that makes me feel.

First there is the vicarious thrill of animals nearby. K. and I have long wanted some sort of pet, but the smallness of our house makes this difficult. A rabbit would, despite its small size, feel cramped for want of space to run around, even if we built something outside (and then the question would be: where outside?) A cat, or cats, might fit into the corners we rarely occupy; but I’ve a history of allergies to their fine hair. A dog is out of the question: the previous owner kept one, but then she lived alone; it still scratched merry hell out of the back door. Chickens next door are half a step towards keeping animals ourselves, only without the hassle of cleaning up their shit.

Then there’s the excitement of spotting something more bucolic than even our quiet, more rural end of the town is used to. Chickens – indeed any farmyard animals – smack more of my cycle ride into work than the housing estate in which we are embedded. There’s the farm museum nearby: but when the council was trying to get rid of it through not-so-benign neglect they let all the animals go; now it’s reopened, it doesn’t have the same menagerie. And these chickens are next door. They’re not in some designated farm-themed communally run area. They’re just hanging out, like the dog two doors down, or one of the many local cats.

But more than any of the above, I’m fascinated by the alienness of behaviour that I see in these creatures living practically on our doorstep (hopefully they’ll trim the flight feathers too often for that to become a “literally.”) Their undomesticated prey behaviours. Their weird, half-bird, half-dinosaur feet flexing to and fro as they amble and perch. The bizarre noise they make, nothing like the en-masse chicken sound effects that one remembers from cartoons or Countryfile. They’re fascinating, and weird, and I can’t get enough of watching them stalk slowly, suspiciously around the garden.

I spoke to Brian about what led to them getting chickens, and apparently his daughter “surprised” them with the pair: they literally fell off the back of a lorry, in a crate that burst open to free them and several other chickens. The van didn’t stop; the firm didn’t want the hassle of taking them back. And so they were parcelled out to schoolfriends of schoolfriends, probably all of them ending up as rather a surprise to the parents themselves. Brian, for one, was forced to set to rather rapidly and build a hutch and run for them; from what I can occasionally see he’s done a remarkable job given the rush he must have been in.

Apparently there are still four of the original crateful at large. I appreciate that it’s more than likely that a fox or some sort of mustelid has done for at least one or two, but still I would rather think of them still roaming, entirely wild, out there somewhere. Scratch, scratch. Peer, peer. Peck peck. Braaaark brk brk brk brk. Slowly, but surely, turning over the topsoil of the Cotswolds, inch by chickeny inch.

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This entry was posted in cotswolds, entertainment, environment, garden, location, made_our_own_fun, nature, neighbours, property, society. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Gallae sunt ibi divisa in partes duae

  1. looby says:

    Oh dear, my Latin’s atrocious – I saw that subject in the RSS reader and knowing that you speak a bit of the language, thought it was something to do with Wales.

    My friend acquired some hens about a year ago, and seeing them strut about in that possessive, seigneurial way they manage to have, out of all relation to their immediate appearance, I found them very easy to like. They were ex-battery hens and it was a pleasure to see them rediscover their gallinaceous nature. I hope your new neighbours continue to be good company.

    [New word de jour – “mustelid” – thank you!]

  2. smallbeds says:

    Well, the original quote is about the Gauls, so you weren’t that far off.

    Interestingly, “gallus” was both the word for a cock and also a reasonably popular Roman name. The nights must have just flown by back then.

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