'Make sure you don’t clip through the living part of the feather. It will start bleeding and that can be potentially fatal.’
Not the comforting words we wanted to hear on a Sunday at 9.30am. It had been a calm morning up until that point. Mum had popped over with coffees, the kids were playing upstairs and we were sitting on the deck.
All of a sudden there was the sound of wings flapping and we saw Chippy sitting on top of the paling fence. Yes, the boundary fence into next door’s garden. Her head kept turning to look on our side of the fence and then the other. Was she thinking about which way to jump, was she as bewildered as we were that she could get up that high, or was she just trying to grab our attention?
If it was for attention, it worked. After she cleverly chose to jump down back into her own run, conversations were flying around about chicken wire on the paling fence, perhaps some rolled on top of the wire fence.
‘It will look awful!’ I moaned.
‘But it will be the best way to keep the chooks in,’ said Stuart, not the aesthete. ‘They can’t be flying into next door and we can’t be worried about them being safe all day every day.’
‘Fine,’ I muttered. ‘You can clip their wings.’ I stomped inside to get the computer hoping this experience wouldn't end the same way as much of Stuart's DIY.
We watched four videos on wing clipping; the first with Iowa chicken farmers who talked too much about blood and fatality to warrant a second viewing. The second with English farmers who also had chooks escaping over the back fence but after they admitted they had never clipped wings before AND numerous minutes were taken up with them trying to catch their chicken, we decided to leave them to it.
Then we watched a very knowledgeable New Zealander talk about the theory of wing clipping but it soon became hard to hear her over the squawking hen on her lap.
‘Don’t let the children watch us do this,’ said Mum.
Confidence was filling the air.
And then we found her; Suzie who runs Golden Valley Poultry. She was going to show the proper way to clip chicken wings, step by step.
‘It’s just like doing your nails’, she said calmly holding a docile chook in one arm and a big pair of scissors in the other.
Once she explained the flight feathers at the top, the warm feathers and the separating feather, confidence really was starting to fill the air around us.
Stuart held Chippy and mum held the scissors. I held onto the i-pad in case we needed Suzie again. And then it was over. Black feathers on the grass and a very calm Chippy.
We clipped all three chooks and Suzie was right; just like cutting your nails.
There was no pain, but I think their pride was hurt. Once all three were back in the run, they took themselves off to bed for a while.
By 6pm, we were back on the deck enjoying drinks with friends when there was sudden flapping and a loud bang into the fence. Chippy tried to fly up to the gate but got no further than halfway.
What is it with 6pm?