Stir Fry Crazy

 

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There was a strange braying noise outside the back door, and it wouldn’t stop. It reminded me of the bit in Jurassic Park where the dinosaur was dying, gasping low and loud as it expired, surrounded by dewy-eyed humans.

Except that this noise (the one outside my backdoor) was made by a chicken, and a hungry one at that. Or maybe she was not hungry so much as just trying it on a bit, in that let’s-make-a-lot -of-noise-and-a-human-will-almost-certainly-chuck-us-some-titbits way that chickens have.

It never fails, especially at 9 am on a Sunday morning when you don’t want the neighbours to be forced prematurely out of their slumbers by an early morning alarm cluck. Our hens know exactly what buttons to press to get some treats slung over the fence at them…… if feeling rather bored, having already whiled away some hours dustbathing or sunbathing or  leg-stretching or digging for buried treasure (worms) or nibbling the roses, they may saunter casually down to the back door, where they sit a few paces away, confined by the fence. If no-one immediately notices them, they will start doing a long drawn out cluck, which gets increasingly loud and which means “Food – now!”. They look hopefully up at the kitchen windows, scanning the inside view to see a glimpse of human-shaped shadow, which will then almost certainly materialise into human-with-mealworms.

Sometimes this is a lone activity, as Lily demonstrated by doing her dying-dinosaur impression this week. But sometimes they feel that their cause carries more weight if at least three of them join in,  in a loud and sometimes raucous chant. If only we could teach them some harmonies-  Gareth Malone please feel free to audition them for a possible new series, perhaps Hens Don’t Sing, although Hen Behaving Badly might be more appropriate…

Well, with all the discord outside the back door, I consulted a wonderful website I’ve just found, which has a table of possible treats for hens, in a long and seemingly endless list. Grapes, leftovers, mealworms, pasta – plus many, many  more. But as I read, I realised that this was the type of fare our hens got everyday at mealtimes, and not just chucked in when we wanted to take advantage of their exemplary recycling skills.

As our hens’ daily diet is fairly exciting, that does rather pose the problem of what constitutes a treat. What do you give the hen who has everything? Pate de foie gras? – a bit too close too home, so no. Supermarket sushi? Tried that, they wouldn’t touch it. Freshly harvested samphire with a light walnut dressing? Possibly. But the biscuit was taken, so to speak, by a photo on the website, which made me do a double take. There, awaiting starters orders (or possibly Latin grace) was a hen sitting down to dine on half a lobster! Yes, I’ll say it again, so you know I’m not kidding, HALF A LOBSTER! Not thermidored, admittedly, but lobster none-the-less. I assume this was from a lobster-producing part of the world, so if not quite coals-to-Newcastle, possibly shoals-to-Newfoundland. Somewhere at least where partially-eaten lobster was not considered worth turning into pack lunches for the family but only fit for the farmyard fowl.

Our hens don’t get lobster, but they do often get nice food from Waitrose. They once refused to eat a certain (not Waitrose!) supermarket own-brand of  budget tinned sweetcorn, which meant that we had to eat up the many tins I’d stocked up on whilst they had our Jolly Green Giant tins…there was nearly a mutiny amongst the amaized humans …

The other thing I do for the hens, which it seems other people don’t, is to cut up the food  for them. Whilst my hens get their cucumber/carrot tops/spinach/leftover stirfry finely sliced and with occasional pieces of grated fingertip garnish, it seems other hen-keepers enjoy lobbing large chunks of whatever, henwards. “Oh it’s so funny watching them running round with a whole sausage”, said my sister this week. I however, am left wondering how, in the absence of an opposable thumb, any hen does anything at all with said large sausage apart from act as the anchor point as the other hens pull bits off. Because that’s the point really – hens don’t have any way to get at their food other than by pecking bits off. Or swallowing it whole. So things need to be anchored firmly – or cut up small!  I too enjoy the Benny Hill-esque specatacle of chickens chasing each other round the flower beds in hot pursuit of some bulky delicacy, I just am not sure how it all gets swallowed without hands or teeth or a Sabatier blade!

Then there’s the question of alcohol…..obviously, don’t give this to your hens. But in the summer ours get the occasional piece of abandoned cucumber from a glass of Pimms. So far, only Florence (rather posh Welsummer girl, think Henley Regatta/Cheltenham Ladies’ College) has tried this. We  wonder if Sumo and Sushi (the ex-batts, think Grange Hill/Vicky Pollard) would have preferred theirs doused in  alcopops…

In the meantime, we are thinking of re-naming our utility room, where their meals are carefully prepared, The Fat Hen. Now, what’s on the Tasting Henu today……

 

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