I went and bought three new hens on Tuesday because a bastard campo dog managed to dig into the enclosure and take all my hens a couple of weeks ago. Between that sad event and the purchasing of the new hens I planned to greatly increase the security of the enclosure. I had intended to install a moat, a trip wire that activated remotely operated machine guns, bury land mines and to install a bunch of battle-hardened mercenaries in a series of watch towers each night equipped with state of the art night vision goggles. However when calculations were done I realised that the budget for these security measures would be similar to that for constructing Trump´s idiotic border wall with Mexico. To break even I would have to have each of my three hens lay an egg each per day for the next 487 million years.

The actual security enhancements that fell within budget were modest enough but, fingers crossed, they seem to have done the trick and I have now had 4 successive mornings when I found that all three hens had turned up for their morning inspection.

My brother Sean, in addition to being a fly fisherman and terrifically good company, is a research scientist. He embarked in a similar project with a bunch of hens of his own many years ago and, in typical form, analysed the performance of his modest flock with statistics of egg production, graphs and future projections. The family got regular updates on everything that was happening in his chicken coop whether we wanted them or not. That was a very fine thing to do and, however tempting it may be to follow in his footsteps, I don´t think I can do the same without infringing on his intellectual property rights.

Today I checked on the hens and scattered enough chicken feed to keep them busy for the day. I wanted also to cut back some plants that were growing into the enclosure. In my experience hens tend to lay their eggs where they are not supposed to and if there is a shady nook or cranny created by such growth they may choose it ahead of the designated laying area. The hens were a little nervous of me and so I tried to keep them calm by talking to them as I went about cutting back the encroaching stems and branches. It occurred to me that while Sean takes precedence in having launched a field of scientific research into small scale poultry productivity I might find other avenues to research and threfroe decided to take it upon myself to explore the legal and philosophical issues arising out of the relationship between man and hen.

You may think I´m being silly but that´s simply not true. Think about it. From an ethical, if not a legal point of view what should be the relationship between us poultry farmers (I may be getting ahead of myself a little here) and the poultry? I am sure that  am not alone in thinking that we have generally got this completely wrong. Our animal husbandry practices are largely abhorrent particularly with respect to producing eggs on an industrial scale. We routinely destroy males chicks that have no commercial use and then effectively jail the females. It´s an ugly business. It is in no small part because of this that I am keen to look after my own few hens and let them have, as far as I can, a pretty decent kind of a life.

The hens have only been there a few days and they have not started laying yet. This morning, as I was pruning the enclosure, I decided that the hens and I should try to come to some kind of an amicable understanding. There were things we needed to be clear about right from the start. I pointed out that I was interested in consuming their eggs and that I was hoping that, between the three of them, I might reasonably expect a couple of eggs a day, ideally three. Who lays those eggs on a given day, and when they were entitled to have time off, were matters I was going to leave to them to sort out among themselves. I would collect the eggs once a day and made it clear that I am not prepared to enter into custody disputes or to be liable to compensate for any emotional trauma associated with egg removal. In exchange for their services I would maintain the enclosure and periodically shovel away all the hen shit and replace the straw in the hen house. I would keep their water supply topped up and make sure they were adequately fed. I told them I would try to ensure that no harm would come to them but decided to keep quiet about what had happened to their predecessors.

That is the way we have left things, those hens and I. We seem to have reached a kind of  gentlemen´s agreement. Nobody feels, at this point, that we need to get all “lawyered up” but we may have to see how things progress. After all it is wise to remember Samuel Goldwyn´s words:

A verbal agreement isn´t worth the paper it´s written on.


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There will be no custody disputes – I had to be very clear on that.

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Mis tres gallinas rojas.