I was seated at the computer, slice of toast to hand, when Al came in. Sarah had sent a text to say she was unable to work that morning. "No problem" I said, "I'll come in." "Don't come in straight away, mid-morning will do" said Al.
The morning's post necessitated phone calls and a letter, so it was nearly ten o'clock when I arrived. The shop was busy, so it was worth my time (especially when Al bought me another Chelsea bun, to which I am now addicted), but it was an unexpected way to spend a sunny Bank Holiday weekend Saturday.
I was home when Ro came in search of lunch. "Any eggs?" he asked. I said I'd go and raid the hen house, and found three new-laid eggs in a nest box. When I got back indoors, I discovered that wasn't all I'd brought back. Crawling on my hand and arm were small creatures - I'm not sure whether they are mites or lice, because there are several chicken parasites and, to be honest, I wasn't that bothered about being introduced to them by name.
I washed and brushed them off, but for the next half-hour I kept finding odd ones on me and feeling generally itchy. Finally, I combed my hair over a piece of paper and several more dropped out (I hadn't been in the chicken shed, just to the nest box at the side). I'd hoped to leave the situation until the Sage arrived home, but this wouldn't do...
I went into the pet shop, bought suitable powder, came home, took off my watch, found a box, a brush and a scraper, put on disposable gloves and went and cleared out the nest box. I dusted the powder liberally. I put the box of bedding with my gloves in a larger box, then in a wheelbarrow, walked indoors carrying a bucket, went to the laundry room, removed my clothes into the bucket, stalked naked through the kitchen, down the passageway, through the hall, up the stairs, into the bathroom for towels, into the shower in my bedroom and scrubbed myself clean. As I was about to apply shampoo, I wished I'd taken out my contact lenses. I screwed my eyes tight shut instead.
When the Sage came home, I told him - very nicely, under the circumstances, as they are his chickens. He was bewildered. He hadn't noticed any problem, he said. Yes, he could see them now, in the box, but it could only have been in the last day or two or he'd have noticed. That's true, actually, they are very tickly.
We'll finish the rest of the hen house later. I'll also fill a barrow with some nice dry ash and sand so that the bantams can give themselves plenty of dust baths, which is usually a very good way of keeping them free of parasites. They like to find an ants' nest and lie with wings outstretched so that the ants dispose of the bugs.