R.I.P. Sheila: 2008 - 2018
Sheila and her husband, Brian, were an incredibly glamorous, young Belgian Campene couple who entered our lives about 10 years ago with a flurry of exquisite, picturesque plumage. Brian was the ultimate cockerel; handsome, imposing and the hyper-macho. Sheila was the ultimate trophy wife; beautiful, highly neurotic and entirely in Brian's thrall.
It took a few weeks for Brian to march around our large, Marrickville garden, staking out his territory and settling in. Wherever he went, Sheila scuttled along a few paces behind him, shrieking in horror whenever anyone came near her and occasionally laying a single, perfect white egg.
We'd been warned about keeping a rooster in the suburbs, but you can only buy heritage breed chickens in pairs so if we wanted Sheila, we had to have Brian. We didn't mind as we were totally smitten with them both. Our immediate Portugese, Italian and Greek neighbours were delighted at the idea of having chickens next door and we couldn't see why anyone would object to such gorgeous creatures.
One morning, at about 3.00 am, we woke up to the blood curdling sound of a woman being strangled in our back yard. We lurched out of bed and ran, naked and terrified, out into the garden, expecting to see something truly ghastly going on among the clivias. We followed the awful noise up to the back near the chook shed and there, quivering with pride and the effort of finding his voice, was Brian, emitting the most frightful, strangled screaming sound. After establishing that no one was being murdered, we retired to bed and tried to sleep through the remaining hours til dawn as Brian practised his new-found skill.
Despite his magnificent appearance, Brian turned out to be a simple fellow with a voice like the soundtrack of a horror movie and a powerful urge to sing. He was convinced that he was the chicken answer to Pavarotti and, each morning at about 3.00 am, he'd start his warm up for the big dawn crow. Unsurprisingly, our neighbours soon complained and we ended up sending him off to live at a friend's farm where, sadly, he met his end at the jaws of Mr not-so-Fantastic Fox.
At first, Sheila was devastated without Brian and it took some time and a bit of nasty hen-pecking before the other chooks accepted her. But it soon became clear that, out of Brian's shadow, Sheila was a powerful harridan and she quickly became the dominant chook that none of the others wanted to cross, ruling the roost for almost 10 years.
Right up to the end, even after a decade of our benign care, she remained horrified by us and ran screaming whenever we got too close. Still, we'll miss her and her occasional gorgeous eggs.