No, this is not the continuing story of my little black dream chicken. I’m talking real chickens here, three of them, who came home as little balls of peeping yellow fluff a few months ago to live with my neighbour’s family.
My neighbour procured a Taj Mahal of a henhouse for the new chickens and installed them in the backyard.
“But what about the dog?” we said.
They have a German Shepherd, a lovely friendly dog, but still.
“She will eat the chickens,” we said.
“No, no,” said our neighbour, with quite astonishing optimism. “When we go on holidays we’re sending her to a boarding kennel where they will train her to love the chickens.”
We were sure she would love the chickens. With sauce. But our neighbour was convinced all would be well. This in spite of the fact that their dog has been known to devour slow-moving possums.
So they went on their family holiday, and we had the task of looking after the chickens while they were gone. The ducklings enjoyed the job, and I was very thankful that no chickens died on our watch. They were all present and correct when the neighbours returned.
But soon after the parents went overseas on their own, leaving the children in charge of the chickens. And the dog, who was now home from her peace-and-love-to-all-chickens brainwashing.
Not two days later, we were out in the yard when a little voice called over the fence, “Have you seen any chickens in your yard? The chickens have disappeared.”
“Honey, if they were in our yard our dog would have ripped them to pieces. Are you sure your dog didn’t eat them?”
“No, there’s no sign of them. They’re just gone.”
Much speculation followed at our house as to what might have happened to the three missing chickens. Had a fox got them? (But surely the German Shepherd would have chased off a fox.) Had they slipped through the fence and gone for a walk? Had they left for a chicken holiday of their own? And what would the boys’ mother say when she came home and discovered her chickens were missing??
Sad little notices appeared on telegraph poles round about, asking if anyone had seen three chickens, but no one came forward. When the parents returned from their holiday we heard that their dog had, in fact, done the deed. She’d dug a hole under the side of the coop big enough for the birds to get out – and then merely waited till they did to chow down. The evidence was discovered underneath the house.
Wait a minute, you say. Didn’t you say this was a tale of four chickens?
Hang on, I’m getting to that.
Meanwhile, I’d been telling the ducklings about the movie Jurassic Park. I even acted out my favourite part, where the T-rex comes through the fence when they’re in the stalled jeeps:
“And they’re in the cars and it’s pouring with rain, and the goat disappears and there’s this HUGE dinosaur. And the kids are in the car on their own and they’re all omigod!! and turn off the torch! And she’s all aargh!! and waving it around and he’s all turn it off! turn it off! And the dinosaur’s attacking and the guy gets out of the other car and waves to attract its attention and then the dinosaur sees him and he’s all oh sh*t”
Meanwhile I’m waving my imaginary torch and pulling scared faces and pretending to be a stalking dinosaur. The ducklings found it highly amusing.
“We want to watch it! It sounds really funny!”
“No, no! It’s not funny. It’s really scary!! It’s dark, and raining, and there’s scary music. And even though I’d read the book and I knew what was going to happen I was still scared!”
But they wouldn’t believe me. So I let them watch it.
And they thought it was funny.
“You’re scared of everything, Mum,” said Demon Duck. “You’re such a chicken you’re going to grow feathers.”
“Hey!” said Baby Duck. “Then we can give you to the next-door neighbours to replace their chickens!”