Out of sight, out of mind.
Since Ralph and Lauren have been confined to their chicken run, my children seem to have forgotten that we have chickens.
As I foretold, the care of these two chickens has fallen to me -- and it's not just physical maintenance either. Just as I must determine if my teenaged daughter should be allowed to take the train to Reading to wander aimlessly with friends, so must I negotiate an optimum balance of freedom vs. responsibility for the chickens.
After being allowed to run riot all over the garden for six months, it was unanimously decided (between the gardeners and myself) that Ralph and Lauren would have to be contained. Although it was obvious that they loved their freedom, it was also obvious that they were marauding brutes. As far as Colin, my gardener, was concerned, they were Genghis Khan reincarnated in the form of poultry -- and he just wasn't having it. The ambitious spring program of replanting and border-building did not allow for this unruly gang of two. Thus, a plan was formed: A chicken run, to be purpose-built by Colin, at the bottom of the garden.
I would just like to note that Colin -- who tends to be a bit of a "Mañana" man when it comes to proposed projects -- came in on a SATURDAY, loaded down with lumber, to build this chicken run. After watching helplessly as the chickens dug up his flower beds for months, he was super-motivated.
Honestly, it's a really nice chicken run. It's spacious; it has shade from a large oak tree; it has all sorts of nooks and crannies to explore. However, all of these "features" cannot disguise the fact that it looks and feels like a confinement. Sigmund, always ready with a (sadistic) quip that goes straight to the heart of the matter, delights in calling it "Chicken Prison."
I worked in the garden for hours today, and every now and then I approached the chickens with special treats, not unlike a peace offering: some snails, some bread crumbs, some carrot scraps. There would be Ralph -- waiting, always waiting -- quietly and forlornly at the fence. Lauren, still crazed by the broody desire to be a mother, was a no-show. Day after day, she sits on eggs that will never hatch.
My chickens, once free and frisky, have lost their mojo.
I can't help but feel a little like Gordon Brown.
In the name of the "greater good," UK citizens have experienced the erosion or downright loss of all sorts of civil liberties. CCTV cameras record our every move. Public smoking is banned. National ID cards and a DNA database are being proposed. In the efforts to curtail crime and thwart terrorism, we have all (presumably) agreed to give up aspects of our freedom and autonomy.
Yes, I have a cleaner, neater garden . . . but I do miss, just a bit, the wild and crazy antics of my chickens.