Saturday, 23 April 2016

A History of the Hooligan

My first 1,5 years

I came out of my shell around 4,5 years ago looking forward to life as a chicken. I had big plans; I was going to travel the world, eat lots of worms and enjoy a little bit of sunshine.
When I turned a few weeks old, things appeared different than what I imaged life would be like. There was no sunshine, no worms and a lot of other chickens.
When I turned teenager, I suddenly had to fight with the other chickens to get the best food.
So, that's what I did and I soon became the top hen.

We lived in a dark barn with no natural light and just a concrete floor with some straw. The eggs we laid were taken away by men in suits. The woman who came to feed us was quite nice; well she fed us, but nobody ever said a word to us.
I felt very sad in this place.
Sure, we got extra vitamins to keep us going, but in hindsight I think it was just so that we could keep on laying eggs 365 days a year. Chickens are not meant to do that! They are meant to have a resting period too!

Than after 1,5 years living in this terrible barn with thousands of other chickens and no space to move, things changed.
Lovely people from a charity called The British Hen Welfare Trust came to the barn and took some of us away. I wasn't sure what was happening, but I could see brighter light when we were moved into a carrier. Five of us went with this man and girl (who I never met again) and they spoke to us about this wonderful place with lots of worms and outdoor light.
I didn't believe it at first, I thought that place only existed in the land of stories.
But it was true!

Living in the wilderness

When we were let out of the carriers we stepped onto soil! "What is soil?" I remember thinking, but it felt nice and the light was bright too. It turned out to be a 'sun'!
So, this was going to be our new lives. A small run with a nice new chicken coop; or that is what I thought, but it only got better!
After a week or so, another hatch opened and we were let out onto something green called grass! I thought we already had a lot of space in the run, but here we had no fencing whatsoever. Where was I going to go?? Luckily, there was still the five of us, so we stayed close together. It was all very exciting, there were plants and soil and worms and sunlight and other chickens from the neighbours. Oh, and there was this lady who always gave us a few more titbits, like seeds and cheese and other things. I liked her a lot.
I had to bully and shout at the other chickens at first, so that I became top hen again, but I felt very happy in my new place.
The other chickens would follow me everywhere and I would follow this lady into the house, so that in the end the whole lot of us walked into the house. We weren't really allowed, but we did it anyway and it was fun and we always got some more seeds.

We are not as strong and healthy as other chickens after we had spent our first years in a barn, so 'The One Who Called Herself The Lady's Friend' passed away after only 1 year. That was sad, but there were still 4 of us left and we formed a clique against the neighbour's invading chickens with me as leader of course.
After a while I wanted to see more of the world and also felt an urge to stay close to my eggs. I found a secluded spot somewhere away from the chicken coop where I laid lots of eggs and guarded them against possible invaders. When the neighbour came too close for my liking I hissed and spat at him, so that he left me alone. I could hear the lady call for me, but I didn't want to leave. After 10 days I didn't feel very well and also had a constant itch on my leg. The neighbour found me limping around and returned me to my own place.
Where I was met by the lady and her man who looked aghast at my leg. I wasn't sure why, but after the lady had cleaned my leg while gagging all the time, the itch had stopped. I was put in a separate area of the house for a few days until I was recovered.

Living in the wilderness was fun. We did lots of things, like destroying newly planted seedlings and lawns, chase the neighbour's chickens out of the garden and follow the lady around. She was like our mother hen to us, it seemed that wherever she went, she would either dig up worms with her huge big claws (called garden forks for some reason) or she would give us seeds from the bird table.
The rumour went that a picture she took with us following her even won her 'Best Chicken Pix' in a well-known Chicken magazine. Apparently it also appeared on the website of the charity who rescued us. I wouldn't know for sure because I don't read and don't have access to the internet, but this might have been the first step to celebrity status for me.
Then the days got colder, there weren't that many worms or insects left and one morning when the second hatch opened, the grass had all turned white! That was scary! The other chickens looked at me as if I knew what had happened to the outside world. "You are quite the adventurer, you'll know", they said. Well I didn't!

The lady kept looking at us from that white world and laughed. But when she called us over and were throwing seeds in the white fluff, I took some tender steps outside the run. Gosh, it was cold! I sank away a little bit and couldn't see my feet. Scary stuff!
The other chickens followed me after a while and we got used to cold, invisible feet.
Then the grass turned green again and we were back to normal.
Becoming famous
I had lots of adventures. That time wasn't the last time I sat on eggs for a while, I did it two more times and got the lady all worried. Although the other times I made sure I didn't get ill.
According to the others, I shouted and bullied, which of course I never did! Anyway, because of all of this and my many adventures, I became quite the celebrity.
I was well known in Stirling, because the lady wrote about me in her newsletter. Not that she ever asked permission for that! Ach, I didn't mind, I would still get my special treats.
By this time, I was known as The Hooligan. Don't ask me why, I never did anything! I can't help it either, that I've got such a loud voice!
After a while more of my pals passed away and there were only three of us left. Not that I minded, it only meant fewer chickens to keep under control.
We still had fun with the three of us.
But I wasn't content with just being famous in a newsletter, I wanted to be on TV too!
I told the lady I wanted a newly planted garden, where I could scratch and cause mayhem and that I had heard of a TV programme where they came to do up your garden.
Good job, she understood what I said, because in May 2015 The Beechgrove Garden descended in the garden. It was great fun posing for the camera and being a general nuisance, although I didn't like the presenter's 'joke' of us ending in the soup!
People spoke about me how they had seen me on TV and I heard that even people in Holland had seen me! I was quite the star!
Soon after the filming however, more of my pals passed away. Maybe they couldn't cope with the pressure of being recognized, or they were just old and got ill.
And in August 2015 all of a sudden I was on my own. All my pals from the barn had passed away. Luckily they had lived more of their lives in the wilderness than in the barn and that made me feel good.
Being on my own was fine too, the neighbour's chickens had also reduced to just three and they had formed their own clique. Although I was still top hen, I went back to my own private chicken coop at night. Life was good and bright!
The ChickPeas
Don't ask me why, but the lady and her man decided I wasn't laying enough eggs any longer and that they needed more chickens. How stupid is that?!
I'm retired, of course I don't lay an egg a day any more!!
So, when they introduced me to the five 'ChickPeas' I made sure I told them who was boss! Those idiotic 'ChickPeas' were cowering in a corner of the run while I was trying to break it down! Yeah, now they can call me The Hooligan!
Luckily, the wilderness is quite large, so when we went out, I could leave the 'ChickPeas' on their own and play with the neighbour's chickens. Just at night I had to share my coop with them.

On this picture one of them is asking for help from the lady because she is being bullied by me. Which is nonsense of course!
I had this plan of getting rid of them again.
I told them not to lay eggs and how to thoroughly destroy the garden. Because they were that afraid of me, they did exactly what I told them. The silly sods didn't lay one egg for 8 weeks and also demolished the whole garden. The man became increasingly frustrated with them while I secretly laughed at them being naughty.
My plan worked however and after 8 weeks the man was so fed up with these destroying garden monsters, that he took them back.
I finally had the wilderness for myself again.
My final months
After the debacle of the 'ChickPeas' the lady and the man didn't introduce any other chickens and I happily lived my life in the wilderness on my own. During the day I still had company from the neighbour's chickens and during the night I had my own private bed chambers.
Talking about the good life!
Being the adventurer, I tried to stay the night with the neighbour's chickens, but I was that used to being on my own at night, that I kept it to just the one night.
By now I was around 4,5 years old and sometimes I was feeling a bit stiff in the legs.
Then one day I laid my last egg and it was massive! I was impressed myself, let alone the lady and the man!
Being on my own had an other advantage; I got spoiled to bits!
Life was good and entirely as I expected from the day I crawled out of my egg.
I had forgotten about my first 1,5 years of my life and was just living life to the full.
Still being the adventurer and having mistakenly been locked up with the neighbour's chickens at night, I decided I would try to stay with them for a few more nights.
But when I started feeling unwell again, I wanted to go back to my trusted own chicken coop. By this time I could hardly walk, but the lady and the man weren't home to pick me up. But I made it and when they came home at night I was sitting in the run.
I really didn't feel well.
The lady gave me Echinacea, which had helped in the past, and herbal worming solution, but it was too late.
After one more day at home, I saw a very bright light and somehow knew this was not the sun.
It looked so good and peaceful and that's when I left my life on earth to sunbath forever and eat all the worms and seeds I could.
Looking down from the eternal wilderness, I could see the lady and man were sad I wasn't there any longer. They buried my earthly remains and made a sign especially for me. 
Well, I was Stirling's most famous chicken after all!