Blacky's free spirit finds peace amid the donkey dung

Blacky lives. Blacky is not dead.

It had been one year since we had last seen Blacky properly when out of good luck, choice or sheer chicken stupidity she had cluck-clucked her way up my driveway at the very same time I was going to get the paper.

Kirsty liked to think, at the time, that Blacky was finally coming home though it is unlikely Blacky ever knew she had a home with us on account of escaping the chicken coop literally minutes after she arrived in 2010.

"But I just wanted to pat her and cuddle her," Kirsty had said. It hadn't been the first time her predilection for touching small, cute things had clouded her usually sound judgment.

The 2011 reappearance had been the one chance of getting Blacky back to where we thought she belonged. In a rush of action I had grabbed a chicken-trapping hospice sheet and some wheat and we had tried to corner Blacky, tried to bring her back into the Brooklands Rd fold.

It was no good. A year of freedom had turned Blacky full- force-feral. The last we saw of her that morning was her flying, quite majestically, to the top of a ponga in Brooklands Park.

Until that point in life I had never heard a chicken laugh nor realised they could do so with such deep disdain. It was a deeply moving experience.

"Blacky's not the same chicken you used to know," I said to Kirsty in a serious tone older people know can calm those prone to overexcitement. "She's got her own life now."

Deeply spoken as they were, the words didn't detract from the sadness of that day, though it was a sadness tinged with relief. Blacky had not been eaten by a cat or mauled by a dog and had actually prospered since the much regretted petting incident.

For a few months after that painful chicken catching failure we would hear Blacky's mournful morning hen-crow and would say to each other: Blacky lives. Blacky is not dead. But for a long time now the Brooklands bush near the house had been free of chicken song and, though it was not a thought we liked to entertain, we had come to assume Blacky had succumbed: Blacky did not live. Blacky was dead.

In a world of gross injustice and general fear it is good to know we were wrong.

One of the things about living close to a zoo is it's not unusual to end up there during a post-meal stroll. On this occasion we hadn't even been on a stroll. We'd just walked around the corner to get some Wandering Willie for the chickens that had stayed loyal to us. But then we just kept on walking and a few minutes later we were in Brooklands Zoo watching the otters being hand-fed raw prawns. First it made me hungry and then it made me angry.

Over the last four years my prawn-eating occasions had been regrettably few on account of Kirsty finding them disgusting. How that is possible I will never understand because even though they are bottom-dwelling faecal- feeders, prawns are in my Top 10 list of delicious things to ingest.

"This must be what people mean when they talk about irreconcilable differences," I thought as I stared jealously at the contented otters.

Before the rot really set in we left the otters and went to the squirrel monkeys so Kirsty's brain could get its daily fix of cute. And squirrel monkeys are cute, no doubt about it. Even when they urinate on their tails you can't help but think "Oh, isn't that just adorable."

The natural progression from that point in the zoo is to move to the farm yard style section and say "here kunekunekuney, here kunekunekuney" to the repulsively fat kunekune pig there. It was while saying that to the second pig, kunekune or not, that we saw Blacky.

"Is that Blacky," I said.

"That has to be Blacky," Kirsty said.

It certainly looked like Blacky. First of all it was black. Second, it was a chicken. It fit Blacky's description perfectly.

"That's Blacky," I said.

"Blacky lives," Kirsty said.

There were other signs that Blacky had indeed moved to the zoo through unofficial routes. She wasn't hanging out with the other chickens but gadding about with the donkey and the goats. And unlike the other chickens there was no tag around her leg. There was also something in her aloofness, something that said she was born to be free and something else that said she had found peace there among the donkey dung.

"Blacky is so happy," Kirsty cried. And so was she. In fact the only thing that could have increased my girlfriend's happiness at that point was if a unicorn called Sir Galahad had trotted over to discuss Kim Kardashian or the increasing unwillingness of government ministries to abide with the spirit of the Official Information Act.

"It underpins our whole democracy. Sir Galahad and I just don't think people even want to know."

"Kirsty I understand completely," Sir Galahad neighed. "But sometimes it's just easier to believe the things you want to believe."

Taranaki Daily News