Monday 5 August 2013

Death in the family
FRENZY a Daniel Jones story by Mark King

I have some sad news to announce.

There has been a death in the family!

Yes, Hop-a-long the family chicken has finally passed away from this earth. For regular followers of always hanging around, and people who have read frenzy you will know that she played a starring if brief roll in the book, but unlike in chapter three we didn't end up eating her.

Hop-a-long was a rescue chicken who spent the first year of her life in a battery farm where she spent 24hrs a day locked in a cage with only centimetres to spare. Her life should have lasted twelve months while she was used like an egg laying machine, never to see day light, alongside tens of thousands of others who had to suffer the same terrible life. After just a years life she would have expected to be sent to the slaughter house, but instead ended up as a family pet along side five of her comrades.

She was in a bad way. Hop-a-long's leg was crippled because of the way she had been kept in the cage (that's how she go the name having to hop to get anywhere) with half her feather missing, and sores over parts of her body. Her new home had a lovely big roosting box with a large enclosed run plus another outer run for when we were about. After six months once all the six rescued hens had got used to their new home we would let them wonder where they liked with total freedom to peck where they liked. Although they would be a pain in the back-side when you wanted to dig over the soil because they would stick their heads within inches of the blade as you turned it looking for fresh worms to gobble down. Time after time they would end up covered in dirt, and getting it your way, but they loved every moment even if on occasions they were near to having their heads sliced in two by my spade.

There was a pecking order among them with Hop-a-long at the bottom, and she got so badly bullied by the others she nearly lost all her feathers. Everyone thought she would be the first to pass away, but over the next four years she out-lived all the others to be the last one standing. Over this time she regained all her feathers, and became a star in her own right among friends, family, and my children's friends  who loved to hold her.

When we informed my daughter of Hop-a-longs death she burst into tears and it took nearly half an hour to settle her down. Her younger brother on the other hand was just curious to know if we going to eat her.

Well we didn't. She was buried with respect.

So now the chicken run is empty and the children want to purchase some baby chicks. Then came the questions! Why didn't any of the eggs ever hatch? Has does an egg become a chick? What is the difference between a Hen and a Cockerel? Why do you need both to make a baby chick? How do they make chicks?

And what was my answer to these questions? Go ask your mum.



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