The Good Life

I don’t need the Agriculture Department to do a survey; I can tell just by eye-balling it that there has been an explosion in the chicken population of late.

These creatures have put the proverbial fertile rabbits in the shade with their ability to breed so that on the day when one chicken may have succumbed to an energetic neighbourhood dog, take it from me: 15 more chicks have just hatched in the neighbourhood bush.

The reality is that the chickens have us on the run.

They are on every corner, on every parapet, and on every piece of greenery not securely fenced in; no area of Grand Cayman is immune.

On cruise ship days, the whole family can be seen parading downtown – rooster, hen and six or seven chicks – and while the tourists find them cute, the reaction among people who live here is considerably more hostile.

What they’re doing on that rather barren terrain downtown, with no grass to speak of, is a mystery, but these birds have become bolder than the proverbial brass. I don’t know if you were there to see it, but in the glittering Heroes Day celebration earlier this year, as the ceremony was about to begin, with thousands of folks in their Sunday best properly in place, a single rooster walked calmly into the square and stood there on the concrete as if he was the Governor taking the march past.

The uninvited bird was even acknowledged by Government Minister Kurt Tibbetts who noted the bird’s presence as part of the culture.

One has to wonder, though, where this chicken population is headed.

Given that there is no formal control programme, and that many people in fact feed the wild chickens as a matter of course, and that these birds clearly don’t practice birth control, we’re in for some rough times here.

In the first place, wild chickens are a serious menace to anybody who plants anything. They can dig up more soil with two feet and a beak than a backhoe (they can wreak havoc with cassava) and anywhere there is exposed soil the chickens jump in with more enthusiasm than John Foster reporting on the weather.

There is also the problem of sleep deprivation, which seems to be more of a problem with our European brethren living here, but even among indigenous folks, chickens can make for some very restless nights and some frustrating days.

Maybe, as Mr. Tibbetts inferred, it’s just one of those small irritants we must put with in the good life here.

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