The Chicken Files

So.. our recent acquisition is a couple of chooks named Betty and Florence. We got them from Mac’s Farm (an organic egg farm based in East Sussex that works not only to provide free range, organic eggs to the public but also to educate on how eggs are farmed and also recognises the pitfulls of egg farming and works with the RSPCA, Fresh Start for Hens and other charities in order to rehome their 9,000 chickens every year when they are required by law to ‘get rid’ of their hens at only 78 weeks).

So, we went from being chickenless to chicken…full? in a matter of a few days. Mr P has resolutely said in the past that we don’t have enough space/money/time etc and as usual he is probably right, except that… we don’t need that much space as we can let them free range when we are home… they don’t cost that much money… we can find the time and… and… well they are purportedly soooooooo much fun … so surely there is always time for fun… isn’t there? (please tell me there is). So one morning during half term I somehow managed to accidentally find a chicken coop on Gumtree for 40 quid. Unfortunately that had already been sold but it kicked off the quest to find one and all with the blessings of Mr P. We managed to find one to collect the next day and on the Saturday we arranged to pick up the EO (Eldest One) at our usual meeting place (she spends time with her dad, Mr X, in London) and then collect the chickens from Mac’s Farm on the way home.

We arrive and it’s not exactly the nicest of British weather but still, Mrs Mac comes out all sunny smiles and directs us to a lovely large paddock where lots of chickens are merrily roaming and scratching about in the grass. The minute we have entered the area, they swarm around us, pecking at our wellies and clucking. The kids picked out the hens and we scooped them up and placed them in the carrier we had brought. As we exited we realised that we were missing a child and then saw that the MO was literally about to be carried off by a hundred lil chickens… DSC_0252And then we are home. Chickens gently warbling and giving clucks like little exclamation marks of surprise as we introduce them to their new, dismayingly smaller, home. We look on, excited and thrilled, as our new family members explore their surroundings.. their language almost fooling us into thinking we could understand the conversation “ooooh Betty, what have we got here?”, “well Florence, I don’t really know but its a lot fucking smaller than where we have just come from”…. I feel horror and then remind myself that it was this or the slaughter house. They might not realise it but at least they are alive.

DSC_0258It’s very late and the darkness has set as we try and ensure that all is secure and Mr Fox is not going to come and munch his way through our new additions. We settle them in and during the night, I wake, worrying that they are safe and not mounds of mangled feathers and bone, ripped apart in some feeding frenzy.

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Our first egg. I feel so torn. These lovely creatures have done what they have been born and bred to do, albeit a lot more often than they would naturally. They go through this ‘egg song’ which really does sound like a cross between.. “woohooo I’ve laid an egg and fuck this is painful”.. and then we claim that egg and eat it. I feel a mixture of pride, sorrow and pain as I place it in the egg box. Yet, if we don’t eat it, what will become of it? Nothing, it will rot or be pecked and eaten by it’s very kind. And there’s the other thing. Chickens.. fluffy, sweet and amusng? Or descendents from dinosaurs (yes, really), omnivorous, predatory creatures that will dive bomb into a nest of baby mice as much as peck at a juicy grape. So… whilst I love ’em… I will be ensuring I don’t take any risks whilst in their vicinity. No drunken falls within the coop.

And a week on… they are free range… out for an hour or so for the first time. Qara our youngest black cat, overwhelmed with utter, unadulterated excitement… These real live playthings… just for her? Really? She runs at them and then darts away at the last minute to escape their beaks. Yet Betty and Florence aren’t that bothered by them seemingly. Bernard the French Metal Rooster is also very calm with the whole proceedings.. he gets placed by the MO, according to his perceived role..

So, a week on and how do we feel en famille, now? Curious as to the future with our hens.. slightly bemused by all the de-miting, de-lousing, de-worming that needs to take place… but I tell you that lovely warbling, clucking you hear? It’s beautiful and transports you to a world of skipping lambs and fluffy chicks…. and I love it.

A day in the life of a…

…community healthcare assistant.

One morning last week, the whole family awoke late. Mr P has to get to work by foot on a Wednesday and it takes 30 minutes, so he literally sprang out of bed and disappeared leaving me to fend off the duelling between the kids. the middle one, T (8), likes to systematically annoy everyone the moment he awakes, the eldest, M (12), is constantly worrying about the bags under her eyes and the youngest, R (4), is still ricocheting between being a helpless urchin and a fiercely dependent demon. So all pretty normal family life. By the time I had negotiated, refereed and completely thrown my own toys out of my pram, time was really not on my side.. I hollered good bye to the eldest two and dragged the youngest one by his coat to the car while he protested that he only wanted Daddy to take him to nursery, not Mummy. Through gritted teeth and a completely fake smile I mistakenly said “ooh can I do a hit and run?” (when I subconsciously knew that it should have been drop and run), pushed R through the door  of his nursery and into the arms of a nursery assistant and ran in a lopsided gait to the car, forgetting that my knees can’t do that motion anymore and wishing once more that I could have those (illusive to me) things called willpower and determinaion and finally lose the 2 stones I have acquired these past 10 years. Hah. No chance.

5 minutes later I sit in the work carpark – less of a carpark more of a Rubiks cube of coloured cars constantly trying to manoeuvre so that all the staff can try and pack their cars in as tightly as possible whilst not denting any and without completely losing their cool and committing homicide.

20 minutes later, I have scoffed a Galaxy cake bar thing that was sitting undefended in the kitchen, gulped back tea and written down my work for the day and am on my way to the first patient. It should be at most a 20 minute visit to take blood.

After 20 minutes of trying to gain access; mentally assessing whether or not this was going to be a “patient has popped out/got stuck on the floor/worse” and ringing various numbers and peering through windows, I get in. 30 minutes later I leave, no blood obtained.. this can happen for various reasons, it might be because the person is dehydrated, or the veins are not easily visible or palpable. I left her, both assured that I had certainly tried my best but knowing that another nurse would have to come out to try again.

The next patient should have been simple too. That visit took 2 hours. During which time, she nearly fell twice, the GP visited and I helped her pack up necessities for a few day’s in hospital, sitting with her and waiting for the ambulance to turn up. Not just blood being taken for tests that was needed that day. She was seriously ill.

By the time I get home that early evening, I am shattered. I think about the admitted patient and feel sorrow that she doesn’t have next of kin, I wonder if I can visit her during my next working day.

I‘m immensely proud to be part of my nursing team, the commitment to our patients and colleagues is outstanding. Long Live the NHS.