In the days when I had chickens, I could watch them for hours.
One time I noticed that they were pecking at each others’ bottoms. I knew that wasn’t good and could lead to much worse, so I spoke to the vet.
He told me that they might have red spider mite. The problem with a mite infestation is that it causes a raw patch that attracts other chickens to peck at it.
The vet suggested a spray to eradicate the mites. That was good in principle, but how was I going to administer it?
I guess I could have asked someone what was the best way to administer the spray, but I didn’t.
I pictured myself running around the chicken run trying to spray the chickens’ bottoms.
I had an idea though. At night when they are roosting, they sit on the roost on their haunches. They bend their legs and lower themselves, and their feet lock in place.
I figured that would give me time to spray them before they stood up and freaked out.
So I decided to spray them at night while they were in the wooden shed where they roosted. The shed had a wooden branch crosswise a few feet off the ground in it, and the chickens roosted on that.
Around dusk they would walk into the shed and walk around a bit inside and then fly up onto the roost.
The shed was what was called an ark – a low building with a pitched roof like a tiny house.
At one end was the box where they laid their eggs and at the other end was a small ramp where they entered the ark and a door so that I could get in from time to time to clean it out.
So after they were settled in for the night I crept into the ark and got my aerosol spray can ready to go up and down the line of chickens’ bottoms, spraying.
I don’t recall but I guess I had a torch with me so I could see what I was doing.
What I do remember is what happened.
I was lucky in that they were sleeping in a line all facing the same way, and away from me.
I figured I had a minute or so while the chickens woke up and stood erect so they could release their grip on the roosting branch and fly up in the air. I pictured a shed full of panicking chickens with feathers flying everywhere.
What I didn’t take into account was that the spray was ice cold when it came out of the pressurized can.
Nor was I ready for their reaction. Those chickens couldn’t have been more pleased.
They each raised their bottoms in slow motion and waggled them into the path of the spray, emitting the chicken equivalent of a low moan of pleasure.
And I worked my way along the row, working to the tune of their little moans.