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Odd Day in Norfolk

On Friday 26th January, I was woken up ahead of my normal 530am time by what appeared to be a chicken celebrating an early morning egg. When doing the rounds  of letting dogs out, feeding the chickens etc, I noticed one of the chickens was a bit bedraggled. Mavis appeared she had gone for a swim in the river, which is a bit odd. The penny dropped, foxes had made a visit and despite getting away with nothing, had spooked one of the girls into the river. That at least, was how it seemed.

Later that day I was treated to a belated Birthday treat – an evening at the theatre with Karl Minns. It wasn’t an evening quite what I expected, but an evening no less more moving and funny than I thought. Not only did I learn that the Theatre Royal in Norwich has a ‘stage 2’ but also that the biggest killer of men under 45 is suicide. How did I learn this? Well Stage 2 reception had what appeared to be a hand written postcard that caught my eye:

Brilliant bit of marketing I thought. Catches your eye, calls you to pick it up, and informs you of what it was about. On the other side it explained what it was about. I had no idea. 

Anyway, next morning on the Saturday after a lazy start I walked to the end of the garden to feed the chickens. With a sense of dread I could see white feathers in the field. Loads of them.  Oh no, foxes had eaten Dennis – our favourite white hen. Bit of a story behind the name and original owner, needless to say Karl Minns and I share something in common. Alas, Dennis was devoid of a loads of feathers but still alive in a real mess. So, covered in blood and half bald I popped her back into her run where she could rest and warm up. She was in such a state I didn’t think she’d last too long so didn’t really do the deed and send her to chicken heaven myself (coward eh?!). Curiously tho, she hobbled into her house and was met by Mavis, a newcomer to the flock who knew she wasn’t well. For the rest of the day Mavis stayed with her  and if I wasn’t mistaken, looked after her like a nurse chicken would. 

Foxes are pretty nasty, which was curious, because Dennis still had her head and was alive. I got the feeling it wasn’t a fox, perhaps a stoat or a mink since the run is by the river. Several hours later I popped back with my trusty medically trained partner to check her out and was surprised to see Dennis still alive and still being tended to by Mavis. On closer examination, her wounds were much worse than I thought. There was a massive gash in her back across the width of her body, leaving a centimetre or so of skin that didn’t join up. Her neck was mangled and I thought her head would fall off.

It was a bit weird looking at a chicken that was such a beauty the previous day, and now such a mess, and being able to see inside her. Preparing a chicken from the supermarket it is one thing, but looking at the same bits of flesh and bone through a massive hole whilst the thing is still alive is a bit weird. As I stood up and took stock, I saw the culprit. There, just a couple of meters away was an otter having just left the water and come back to finish the job. It looked like the size of a small seal, a ginormous dog otter looking miffed that I had its chicken supper. It was a weird moment. On one hand, seeing the otter this close up was a thrill and a privilege, but on the other knowing it was responsible for Dennis’s near death experience . 

It was a deciding moment. Either I would put her to sleep or we had to stitch her up. Left as she was she would definitely die, and somehow not having a go at repairing the wounds would be allowing that pesky otter to claim its prize by default. So onto the operating theatre it was, which happened to be the ‘creative studio’ adorned with so much crafty stuff that the floor I had laid a couple of years back was largely covered. It was odd to be in a craft studio with a psychiatrist and a chicken, needle and threat and disinfectant. Needless to say, that 9 stitches later Dennis seem to show signs of recovering and at least be in a state where the wounds themselves were fine but the depth of infection was still a bit of an unknown. 

So zipped up, back she went to her nurse Mavis and off I went to Aldi which was for some much needed groceries, not because I had developed the hunger for a roast. It was strange looking at chickens on Aldi shelves though. What was a little unusual, in as much as anything in my life is normal, came in the form of a pigeon. As I drove back on my Vespa a pigeon flew out from a bush and seemed on a collision course with my head. As I prepared for impact, it turned 90 degrees and flew alongside me.If I could have recorded it, David Attenborough would have been proud.

So there I was, doing about 45mph on a dark country lane with a pigeon flying next to me within grabbing distance. In a split second, I had a male thought. Could I go faster than a pigeon? I had 300ccs and Italian design. It was a pigeon. I knew I could do at least 80, how fast could a pigeon do? So, in a brief childish man moment, I grabbed the throttle tightly and got ready for launch. I peered across like I was at traffic lights ready to go green. Funnily enough, and honestly too, Mr pigeon at that moment turned its head and looked at me. The race was on.

No quicker did the mental start flag commence the race did the race come to an end. As I opened the throttle and looked across smugly at my race partner, so Mr Pigeon looked and me and went vertical. He took off upwards. I couldn’t match that. I forgot, whilst I could possibly outrun him on the drag race that was White Horse Lane, he had an extra dimension to go in. I was stuck in 2D. Bugger. 

Yet the point of this brief encounter wasn’t so much to prove who was faster in whichever dimension we felt most comfortable in, but something more down to Earth. Do you know when blokes show affection to one another, it’s not so much through words but through simple actions. A nod,a wave, two fingers to a friend, a sign to say ‘tosser’, that sort of thing. In that brief ‘blow you Vespa driver I can fly upwards’ moment, there was a sense of thanks. Thanks for looking after his friend, Dennis the chicken. It was a humbling moment. 

With a renewed sense of purpose and an acceptance the otter would be back, I pondered how to protect Dennis. The pigeon has given me a new sense of responsibility. I will save that chicken. Google told me that otters dont’ like noise. It also told me the first defence against otters was in fact, a fence. But it was late and I couldn’t see myself trying to face of a side of a very wooded river. Noise it had to be. I knew my Dewalt DAB site radio would be called upon one day! I had the tool. 

What noise tho? What would put an otter off? Which station?  Radio Norfolk? In my mind, otters would probably quite like Radio Norfolk so it might act as bait rather than a deterrent. Radio 1? That’s usually pretty rubbish music, Kerang, Heart FM, Radio 3? Would Radio Norfolk simple sedate the otter into loosing its appetite? I imagined it seeing the chicken and Radio Norfolk persuading it that what it really needed was a night in with a good book. Radio 1? Dennis would hate it and probably hang herself. Radio 3 ? Otter and Dennis wonder what that is about and probably lull them both into suicidal thoughts in the midst of lots of plumby accents.

So in the end, balancing the need to keep otters away and comfort (without killing) Dennis I settled for afternoon Radio Norfolk. I don’t know what it is about afternoon radio but it does seem to have a habit of going a bit rubbish. Rubbish was needed. It was after all, about a chicken that doesn’t have too many thespian tendencies and death is more likely to be attributed to a massive hole in its body.


It’s nearly 8:30pm on Sunday 28th January 2017, the radio hasn’t got any better but Dennis appears to be still alive. She does look weak though and despite being stitched up, bandaged up and smelling of antiseptic, I have a sneaking suspicion it might be her final night.. 🙁


Monday 29th. 8am. She’s still alive. Head looks weird and bandages might be covering her bum so she can’t poo. 5pm. She’s pooed. She has eaten, and she is drinking. 


Tuesday 30th. 8am. Bloody hell, this is a super chicken. She’s alive, making noises, and not looking obviously like she is going to die. Her eyes are weird, small, hollow, and despite being increasingly feisty at being picked up – still looks like she good give in at any stage. During the day she volunteered out of the coup and wondered around. Looking drunk – but had all her limbs and most importantly her head. Is she going to make it? 21:30. Checked in. Asleep, in good spirits, alive. 


Thursday 1st Feb 18. Dennis still alive. Not sign of Geoff. Completely forgot about her. She’s the best looking chicken but devoid of much character. Not surprising that I hadn’t noticed her for a while. Bandages off of Dennis, wounds seemingly healing. Strange air bubble around her neck.  Cant believe she is still alive. Anyone reading this: if you save a chicken and bandage it, make sure the poo hole is clear. If not, it smells quite bad..

Strapped up and on the mend. Dennis the amazing self mending egg layer!


Thursday 8th Feb and Dennis growing new feathers. Time to get her stitches out! I still cant quite get over the fact that a chicken, half eaten, can make a come back at all. It’s like dropping your phone, it smashes to pieces, then I put it on the radiator and in the morning it’s fixed itself. Life is truly a miracle of technology that is way beyond my understanding. She’s living in the tree with her flock at the mo so stitches will have to come out tomorrow. Radio Norfolk still playing. No sign of the Otter coming back.



March 18th. Dennis completely normal and shows no signs of over being eaten by an otter. Amazing stuff. Just added two new chickens to the flock, Yellow and Pink.