Noisy, smelly, fly magnets, prone to parasites and the ever present fear of waking up to a horror movie massacre scene should mongeese, owls or leopards have found their way into the chicken run.
These were my immediate thoughts when chef Christiaan asked if I would consider adopting his three chickens.
"They lay really tasty eggs every day though," he mused absently,
"Okay, done, bring them." I agreed.
It took him another five minutes to convince me to accept Skipper, his pint size bantam cockerel. "He's quite a personality and he never crows before 9,"he lied smoothly.
"Alright, bring them all......"
Our last excursion into poultry raising at Boschendal had led to the overnight disappearance of 50 chicks which were swiftly dispatched by our family of cape eagle owls. No sooner had we started work on the fowl run than they swooped down and lined up on the wall watching us with their slow, blinking eyes and swivel-jointed necks unable to believe their luck or our stupidity.
So first, the run had to be owl-proofed. This involved 15 men and 50 sq m of mesh thrown over the top of the run and tensioned with hanging stones. The resident squirrel was evicted and the mulberry tree was pruned.
Jerome presented me with the plans to his chick dormitory, a Trump Tower of a construction, with a sweeping central staircase, two wings, roosting poles and a basement verandah which was built of old fruit crates and held together with string, sealing wax and plentiful optimism. It was erected within the walls of the run to house all those unhatched chickens that we were already counting.
The next day Mildred, Snowy and Skipper arrived and surveyed their new domain critically. The hens inspected every corner like well dressed Elizabethan ladies while Skipper bustled around like Sir Walter Raleigh, helping them over puddles and ushering them round corners.
The eggs were delicious but after a few days Oom Gerald scolded me for stealing them all and not leaving any to hatch.
"You have to be kidding!" I scoffed, indicating the diminutive stature of Skipper and the bootilicious proportions of his harem. "He'd need a step ladder!"
"I'll tell you what," I compromised, we'll get him a mate. So off to Aspidistra nursery we went and returned with a cardboard box balanced on Bella's lap from which a ruffled and flustered Jessica periodically squawked.
But it turns out that where Skipper is concerned, it's all about the bass. He likes the larger ladies and the petite blonde that we had purchased was rejected out of hand.
I suppose you can guess what happened next. We went back to Aspidistra and found some friends for Jessica, and while we were there I fell for a couple of pretty grey orpingtons and their handsome chaperone, George.
A week later my Indian runner ducks arrived and before we knew it the werf was a clucking, squawking, quacking medley of bird mayhem. More eggs than we knew what to do with and some of deeply ambiguous parentage.
On the twelfth day of Christmas we find ourselves the proud owners of 12 mottled eggs, 11 bags of feed, 10 ducks a running, 9 owls watching, 8 guineas gobbling, 7 chicks a hatching, 6 hens a laying, 5 balls of string, 4 bales of hay, 3 bantams, two orpingtons and Skipper in the mulberry tree!