Have you ever seen a chicken surf? I have. Right past my front door and down the lane. Problem is it was my chicken being carried away on a breakaway wood panel by a rogue mini-torrent of water that the Met Office had explicitly promised me wouldn't be there!
A soggy Silkie is a sorry sight indeed. We've had our fair share of inclement weather this autumn, with many of my fellow chicken keepers sharing their woeful tales of waterlogged pens, soaking straw bales and puddle-splashing poultry. Having managed to dodge most of the issues that were plaguing my friends I admit I was feeling slightly smug with my picture perfect, tidy row of pens.
So, despite the trees being whipped around in a lively manner and an endless stream of heavy showers, my lack of weather-related attention meant that I was totally caught out by the deluge of water that was unceremoniously dumped in our garden.
Even with my early-morning, bleary-eyed attention span I could see that the overnight weather had caused something of a mass vegetative suicide. Every leaf seemed to thrown itself to the ground, leaving the bare branches hanging in an extravagant but rather menacing manner.
Now of all the things I am not very good at, dealing with an emergency ranks right at the top. Running out of teabags causes a mild panic attack, a bad haircut can require a full day's bed rest and recovery. I am, in short, easily flustered. Happily I'm not the most neurotic member of the family. What distinguishes chickens above all other pets is their almost limitless lack of intelligence. With a complete lack of cunning and ridiculously blunted survival instincts I'm amazed the species has made it this far!
Clueless as to where he was and what he should do, my floating rooster Sam doggedly clung on to his panel as it drifted down the lane. With no time to pull on my wellies, I raced out the door, dressing gown hurling wildly behind me. I bounded through the sloshing water in socks and slippers, leaving a confused husband and overexcited toddler in my wake.
Having recovered the wannabe surf champ I made my way round to the chicken pens to be greeted with a stagnant, muddy pool of standing water. Now I'm not comparing the discovery of finding four coops, five runs and 18 chickens knee-deep in dirty water to the absolute nightmare of finding your entire living room has become a wet room. But believe me, it's hard to think of a more horrid assault on your nostrils than a soggy mixture of mud, straw and chicken poop!
Now, one of the odd things about chickens is that they seem to expend huge amounts of effort getting themselves in the most ridiculous situation they can manage. In this case most of them seemed to have decided that under one of the larger coops and up to their bottoms in water was the safest place to be. Armed with my trusty rake (and still in my pj's) I attempted to shoo them out onto drier ground. Of course this required me getting down on my hands and knees in the yakky water - so far, so soggy!
Having removed the renegade flock I pulled myself up only to find my rake was jammed! It was hooked up on submerged chicken wire with a good six inches of muddy, smelly water over it. As I got back down on my knees I felt justifiably resentful towards my rake for being so unhelpful. Mild panic began to set in after five minutes of pointless tugging, twisting and pulling, accompanied by frustrated growls, angry grunts and finally, helpless bleats.
With a mighty heave-ho it finally came free, just in time to send me hurtling backwards onto my own bottom in the murky water. This wasn't fair! According to the weather 'experts' the flooding wasn't even supposed to be affecting Norfolk. A makeshift trench slowly helped to clear the majority of puddles away, although I'm pretty sure that most of the water ended up being soaked up by my clothing…
Four hours later and back in the house my husband took one look at me before announcing sternly that I spend "far too much time on those bloody chickens". I shrugged helplessly and bleated: "But they don't like having wet feet." He gave me one of his 'hopeless case' sighs before helping me off with my wellies and getting me the big blanket and a nice cup of tea.
The lesson to draw from this is that rain, chickens, early mornings, and baggy pyjama bottoms don't mix. That may not be the profoundest of flood related insights, but for anyone who has outdoor pets with no winter water plan in place, I believe it's a good place to start...