I’m in the process of moving seamlessly from the care and maintenance of cats to the ditto and ditto of chickens.
The cats were the usual pair at Swanky Towers, home of my frequently holidaying friends, and the beasts’ c&m was complicated by the fact that one of them has a thyroid problem, which puts him off his grub.
He has pills for it but refuses to eat them. Even if, after deploying a variation on the Heimlich manoeuvre, you manage to get one down his throat, he’s quite capable of regurgitating it five minutes later.
The best method is crush the pill into his wet food. But, by the time I arrived, he’d stopped eating, a problem complicated by the fact that sybaritic Bertie, the other beast, will scoff the food containing the medication, given half the chance.
Honestly, you need eyes in the back of your bean. For three days, Jeeves stayed off his food, but fell eventually for the pill being crushed into some kitty milk concoction that he drinks. After that, he was eating for Scotland, even helping himself to Bertie’s provender, if the latter didn’t get his bib on quickly enough.
No sooner had I departed from Swanky Towers, like some Rabbie Poppins of the pet world, than I was called to the countryside for a tutorial on looking after chickens.
These other pals are holidaying in July, and I’ll take over their demesne for a fortnight, with my main duty concerning the hens, ken? I’ll have to remember that. Sometimes, I fetch up at Swanky Towers, help myself to the drinks cabinet and any posh chocolates I can find, put some relaxing music on (sound system to die for), and sit back in the lap of luxury. Hours later, I leap up, crying: “I forgot about the cats!”
It’s a business, this beast maintenance. Indeed, one of the dog walkers on the suburban hill has suggested I take it up as a profession, as my usual one is degenerating into a hobby. People have asked me to look after their mutts but, as a man in my position cannot be seen picking up poop, I’ve had to pooh-pooh that idea.
In the meantime, chickens and cats will suffice. Feeding and housing the former turned out more complicated than expected, and I’ve warned my friends not to expect all five beasts to be alive when they get back.
However, if all goes well, I shall have all the eggs I can eat in moderation (dubious effect on the prostate, some say) and, indeed, have been starting every other day since my tutorial visit with a fried egg, and feeling fairly fabulous for it.
Better even than the ovate bonus from chickens, though, was that I got a go on a mini-tractor for the grass cutting. I cannot recall ever being so happy. Again, it all seemed terribly complicated, with buttons to press and levers to lift, but once I’d mastered it I was off, turning left and even right at times.
I know: we can all see this ending badly. You’re picturing tractor-shaped holes in the hedgerows. But I picture myself happy as a sandboy: munching fried egg sandwiches as I mow as much of the world as I can.