My very first birds were a cluster of
former battery inmates, and although
one or two found the transition to free
range life such a shock that they
quickly expired, this was probably still
a lucky break. Every few weeks
wooden crates were stacked outside
the farm’s battery sheds. These were
for birds that had reached the end of
their working lives, and were known as
culls.’ For them, being put in those
crates meant a trip to the soup
The farmer made 20p a bird, so that’s
what I paid him for mine, and my first
choices were less than pragmatic, so
the new arrivals were often the most
battered and bald.
The ones that survived proved feisty,
inquisitive escapologists, who
naturally made a beeline for my
aunt’s vegetables, but I wasn’t
made to get rid of them, nor the
one-eyed, riotously colourful, semi-
feral Jungle Fowl cockerel that had
arrived at the battery farm, which I
eventually caught and moved in
with my birds. Christened Fred, he
was an Alpha male who liked to
travel, usually to a neigbouring
cottage, whose owner’s bantams
he was very keen on squiring, which
resulted in a great many unwanted
crossbred chicks.
Continued over