Mudlark: Thelma and Louise - the story so far

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Mudlark, October 28 2005

Tomorrow in Mudlark, meet Thelma and Louise, and enjoy some bangers ahead of Bonfire Night.

Essex girls

Mudlark, October 29 2005

While much of the media has already tarred and feathered the UK’s poultry population amid bird flu fever, spare a thought for Thelma and Louise, two feisty young Essex hens belonging to City media types Douglas Smith and Piper Terrett.

Before the avian flu scare, keeping a few hens was chic. Snazzy new coops were fuelling a revival of The Good Life without tears. Indeed, Mudlark was already mentally measuring up his Charlton garden, fig trees and all, after a particularly persuasive Saturday magazine article a few weeks back.

But now the fate of such domestic fowl hangs in the balance. After all, what will the neighbours say?

There’s no sign that such concerns bother the feathered heads of Thelma and Louise, who roam free in a back garden in Billericay, Essex. Perched aloft a patio table, Thelma, who is ginger, portly and something of an exhibitionist, seemed unfazed by a possible pandemic, even though the ill-fated quarantined parrot had lived just a few miles away in Brentwood.

Louise, who is skinnier with black feathers and keen yellow eyes, was more interested in raiding the kitchen to steal rival pet Dougal’s cat food. Not exactly behaviour Defra would approve of.

“I did nearly throttle Thelma yesterday when she went for my cat Dougal,” admits her owner. “But she’s a bit too old for the roasting tin. We’re not too alarmed about bird flu but we’re keeping an eye out for rogue Turkish pigeons.”

Stay tuned to Mudlark for the further adventures of Thelma and Louise.

Che gelida gallina

Mudlark, November 4 2005

There’s one place that the triumph over gunpowder, treason and plot won’t be celebrated tomorrow night with a display of Catherine wheels and rockets.

In the presence of feathered beauties Thelma and Louise, who made their Mudlark debut last Saturday, fireworks would be as popular as Guy Fawkes himself.

Like most small creatures, the hens are about as keen on fireworks as they are on brooms, their least favourite thing in the world besides foxes.

Experts recommend taking them indoors on Bonfire Night and putting them to bed in a cosy cardboard box in front of the telly.

So in place of the fireworks, Thelma and Louise will be entertained, believe it or not, with the the latest Luciano Pavarotti video. When they are not digging about the garden looking for worms, or perusing the FT, chickens love nothing better than watching the box; Pavarotti is a particular favourite, except, Mudlark suspects, when he sings “your tiny hen is frozen”.

If the fates smile, moreover, the Warbling One will also take their minds off the hordes of paparazzi that have been pursuing them since last weekend.

The girls have been virtual prisoners in their back garden in Billericay since Saturday’s column, and Louise sulked for three days in the henhouse after Thelma became a pin-up in dealing rooms, where not much else, to be honest, is allowed these days. Today Mudlark puts that right.

Essex eggnog

Mudlark, December 23 2005

It’s time for a final 2005 entry in our galline journal of a worrying-about-the-plague year.

As the garden lair of Thelma and Louise in Billericay, Essex grows silver with frost, Mudlark wonders what Christmas may have in store for the feathered ladies. They won’t be making an appearance on the Christmas table instead of a turkey.

Perish the thought. But what might Father Christmas be bringing the prized poultry in their little stockings, which are already hanging up outside the henhouse? Young Louise says she asked Santa for a nice hot water bottle while the less practically minded Thelma is hoping for a pink feather boa.

But, the million dollar question is, have our girls been naughty or have they been nice? Even their owners - Douglas Smith and Piper Terrett - disagree. True, the ladies have already delivered more than 300 free range eggs since June when they began their professional lives.

But the cheeky chickens have also demolished countless prize flowers and plants (tomatoes, ornamental cabbages, the list goes on). And only last Saturday, Thelma leapt up and snatched a mince pie from the mouth of her unsuspecting owner, who was planning to enjoy the seasonal fare al fresco in a rare instance of winter sun.

So, it will be a difficult decision for Father Christmas. But we hope he will look generously on our feathered friends this year.

Feathered friends

Mudlark, January 13 2006

It was the scare over bird flu that first prompted an introduction to Thelma and Louise. But last weekend brought a reminder that the biggest danger usually comes from closer to home.

The hens were attacked by a fox in their Billericay garden. “By some miracle, they both survived,” reports owner Piper Terrett, a City journalist. “Louise escaped with a few missing feathers from her backside, but Thelma was more seriously hurt, although she is hopping wounded. She lost a lot of feathers from her back, hurt her foot and is sporting a number of bites.

“But after a trip to the vet and a good night’s sleep, she was looking a lot better. She can’t really move round much and is being kept comfortable in our kitchen. She even laid an egg on Monday, but we couldn’t eat it since she’d had an antibiotic shot.

“I spent the morning rubbing antiseptic cream into her back, and Doug (Terrett’s partner) is making her a little fleecy jacket to put over her bald patch, as we were advised to make sure she is kept warm. Louise is fine but alone in the pen and missing her pal a bit.”

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