Filed under: Daily maily
We knew we’d been losing chickens while we were away, according to Denis who was visiting every couple of days to look after things. He found a hen dead in the chook house and then a couple of the babies (2 months old) seemed to disappear. We assumed chicken hawks were responsible – we’d scared a couple off before we left.
So we got back home and unpacked and were watching telly when there was a noise from the fowl yard. Like a shot we were all out there – half of us naked. Coco (she’s a dog, she’s naked anyway) started rounding up chickens that had fled the yard and Gus and Ziz started rounding up Coco, who likes to gnaw on chickens given half a chance.
Then Donna shouted “there’s a big fat python in the yard”. No one else saw it. We didn’t disbelieve her, what with herself always being right and everything. So, thinking that the babies and their mum (Little Blackie) might be in danger if they slept outside the chook house, we piled Little Blackie and the little ones into the laybox and went inside. It was night. Myopic creatures like chooks don’t move round much at night.
The kids brushed their teeth and went to bed. Donna and I stayed up. We knew there was a problem. We didn’t know what to do about it. We hoped it would go away of its own accord. We knew it wouldn’t.
More squawking caterwauled out of the henhole. Donna and I clamped the headlamps we’d been given for Christmas on our noggins and sprinted to the rescue. Cue dynamic Shaft-style music. Little Blackie was back in the yard with most of the chicks. We lifted the lid of the laybox and there was the python, squeezing the last breath out of a young chicken. We ran around for a few seconds, in that panic that reassures the human species they’re actually going to accomplish something when their thoughts settle down, then Donna, always the more sensible, ran to get tongs and a pillow slip.
A military machine, us. While I tried to grab the python with the tongs, Donna screamed not to grab it and if I did grab it grab it just behind the head and wait till it had the chick’s head entirely in its mouth and she gave me some scientific facts about pythons that I can’t remember but they couldn’t have all been true. The python got away into the wall cavity. We left the dead chick in the laybox (as bait, clever, huh) and went inside.
Ten minutes later we were back again. The python was back at the chick. We had our barbecue tongs and pillow slip again. I grabbed it. Donna screamed again, I dropped it again and the python glided into the chook house proper. We peered into the chook house. The python was inches away from one of our roosters, which was cowering, shaking, quivering like a kid who’s just eaten an ice-cream too quickly or a rooster hoping its Invisibility Cloak was working. The other rooster had backed itself into a corner and was pretending it was the corner. We went back inside. (All the hens had escaped out into the chook yard. Only the roosters had stayed to staff the barricades. I vote the hens the more level-headed.)
Ten more minutes and we were back yet again. By now we were fully dressed. Pythons don’t have venom but apparently they have a nasty set of teeth. This time the python’s head was around the chick’s head, its body coiled again around the body, and with one hoick I picked the tangled combination and dropped it into – not a pillow slip in Donna’s hands but a plastic tub with a lid, on the ground. On with the lid.
Breathe out. Bed.
Next day we offered the snake to our friends at Tabbil Forest, a hippyish property up the road. We couldn’t have a python living at our place that had acquired not only the taste for chicken but also detailed knowledge of their whereabouts. Jane and Brian jumped at the chance. They wanted it for their vegie garden machinery shed, to cut the rat and mouse population. So, we peeked into the tub to discover a serpent with a creepy bulge halfway along its belly, and put the plastic tub, the kids, and the dog into the ute. Time to deliver the snake.
We released our distended friend on a summer’s day in 2010. Once released, it gave a wonderful display for the hordes – curling between motorbike spokes, meandering over rake ends. We wish it well. May it live to a ripe age on the vermin of Tabbil Forest. May it never find its way back to our chickens again.