Rachel Auckland's Blog

Tales from Wales

The fluff of life

Since his brother Lionel died, Ludwig had seemed content to be the only buck rabbit around: no more need for constant border patrols between his and the neighbouring territory; no need to complete to build the biggest poo pile, or to grab the juiciest weeds offered up through the fences.    For a while.  But come the winter, I started to feel that perhaps Ludo was a bit sad and lonely.

It’s hard to be sure with rabbits as to whether we’re reading their body language, and hence their thoughts and feelings, accurately, or whether we’re merely projecting our own thoughts and feelings onto them.  Anyway, I started to think perhaps he’d need a companion, once the weather improved.

Of course, by the time Spring arrived, we were on the move again, so it wasn’t the right time.  But in amongst the chaos of packing down, stowing stuff away and camping in the new house pending refurbishment, I managed to have a chat with the vet about Ludwig’s options.

The vet agreed that rabbits are best kept with others of their own kind, but that this can present issues, as they’re liable to live up to their reputations (there’s no such thing as two rabbits). The choices were quite limited.  At his age, an op appeared too risky. Having, as they do, various stomachs containing subtle blends of gut flora whose job is to aid digestion of a bunny’s rather coarse diet of hay, twigs and cabbage stalks, it’s not a good idea to shut down their systems with general anaesthetic.  Their digestive biodiversity balance may never recover, and they may not survive.

But there is an injection which is suitable for neutering a mature, intact buck – a sort of bunny bromide. However, I decided to defer the dreaded jab (and the cost) until we’d settled down, the weather had improved and we’d found a suitable prospective companion.

Now, there are not a great many people in Wales who keep Angora rabbits, and I was expecting to have to wait a long time and perhaps travel a considerable distance to find the perfect companion for Ludwig.  Then one day, up popped an advert on the internet for not one but two Angora Rabbits at an address very near our new home.  We went to meet them.  Rosie and Jim.  Rosie’s a lovely dark, smokey grey, and Jim is a fine pink-eyed white.  They bonded with me the moment I touched them, and in the same moment I realised that they would instantly turn to felt if I so much as perspired.

You see, these are not German Angoras like Ludwig; they’re delicate little English Angoras with a frame far slighter and a coat far finer than anything I’ve been used to so far.  They’d have to live indoors, at least until it stopped raining – which in Wales is a bit like waiting for Hell to freeze over.  “They’re not for us”, declared my partner, firmly, as we drove away without them.

24 hours later, I stopped crying as we pulled up outside Rosie and Jim’s house and popped them into their new cat-box and onto the back seat of our car.  I want to make it absolutely clear that I did not cry deliberately to get my own way.  My rational mind said “no” just as clearly as my partner had.  I think it was just the sense of loss – my grieving for Lionel finally hitting me, now the dust is beginning to settle; the loss of my fluff / his fluff, lovingly groomed and gathered up over the years into boxes ready to spin, but now locked away in a dark, airless dungeon of a storeroom, leaving my restless hands idle and in peril.  I wasn’t trying to manipulate anyone or influence the outcome.  I was just crying.  But if someone you love is crying, I guess you’ll try anything to stop her.

So here we are, with at least ten rabbits in our kitchen, every one as adorable as Mum and Dad; the rain still falling; poor Ludwig still in the garden on his own.  He resembles a small sheep at present, as it’s so cold I dare not shear or even groom or him lest he moult and catch a chill. Neither do I dare bring him in, until he’s been jabbed, as he’s likely to pick a fight.

Jim, being younger and fitter than Ludo, has had his op, and mercifully survived. So that’s one less thing to worry about. Although he is still sulking ten days later.  But then I can’t criticise ~ I’m still sulking ten years after my first mastectomy!

Perhaps when the weather improves, I might take one of the newcomers out and venture a tentative introduction, but I’m not sure how the old buck will deal with quite this many new friends.  So in the meantime, if by any chance you’re still reading this, and you happen to know anyone who might like a pair of adorable, cuddly bundles of fluff, do please leave a comment.  The dozen rabbits you ordered will be with you in no time.




The Great Transformation

It’s been a while since I wrote a blog. I got fed up with it being like a chicken obituary column. But suddenly I’m moved to write again.

Al is plucking Ted in the vestibule.

It’s problematic naming your chickens after the dearly departed. In some ways it can help with the grieving process. I was missing my old friend the painter and matriarch, Monica Sjoo; likewise my recently deceased friend Marta Lombard, another very fine painter and a great inspiration to me. So I found some comfort in naming two of our Gold Laced Orpington Bantam pullets after my them. It seemed to bring them closer, to give them new life.

It’s odd, in a way, that Marta grew up to be a strapping cockerel. But the journey to the afterlife is a great transformation, which is likely, surely, to transcend gender. Incidentally, Marta’s youngest, my ex-lover Charlie Kiss, being an impatient soul, in my opinion, underwent that transformation within a single life-span. Bravo, Charlie.

That one’s former mother-in-love should turn out to have a commemorative cockerel is one thing. But naming a chick after one’s ex-husband, what’s that about? Of the six Orpington chicks we bought last summer, four turned out to be cockerels. Of the four, Marta is the butchest. Rupert and Giles (ask Al) come a close second. Ted was always a bit runty, poor chap. Once, he looked at me sideways, as only a chicken can, and that look seemed to reach out to me from a very far away place and time, to penetrate my soul.

Well, Ted and I had no contact for some thirty years or so, until one day, he gave my daughter a lift home to Wales – following a visit to London for some anniversary, celebrated with a pub gig, of course: a reunion of the Bozo Brothers. Ted was the lead guitarist. I’d admired his nimble fingers from the first moment I heard him play and that love of his music never left me.

Thirty years is a long time. Now here he was standing outside my house. I was surprised to find how much his appearance had changed with age. I might have walked past him in the street without recognising him. It was his voice that I recognised, and that brought the memories flooding back. I was more surprised still to realise how (almost) completely healed were my wounds; how much forgiveness and compassion I could feel for him – alongside the clear memories of the transgressions, on both sides, which ruined our marriage. There is a difference between forgiving and forgetting.

It’s important to observe appropriate boundaries. This said, due to the miracle of Facebook, we were able, thereafter, to explore a tentative dialogue over the ensuing months. I proceeded with very great care, for myself, for him, for my daughter to whom he was Daddy, and especially for my partner, Al. She is not the type to be jealous of the past, but neither am I willing to risk allowing the slightest doubt to overshadow our relationship. I’ve learned that lesson.

Ted had an unshakable belief in the metaphysical realm, synchronicity and his own clairaudience. I like to think I’m open-minded; not a great believer in anything much, if I can help it. I’m with Grayson Perry on this. “Hold your beliefs lightly”, he said. “But what does all this have to do with chickens?” I hear you ask.

Well, coming up for two years since Al’s Aunty died, and with these things on our minds, she mentioned to me the other morning that an acquaintance was out of hospital following surgery for cancer of the oesophagus. As is my careful habit, at first I said nothing, but then soon had to admit that I felt angry and sad that such a cure was not possible in Ted’s case. Whether it was a different part of the oesophagus or what, I don’t know: his proud jutting chin; his wispy beard; beer-swilling throat; his beautiful, fag-addled voice box; or deeper, in the lifeline to his stomach? In any event, he died last summer, shortly before Al’s 50th birthday and his 62nd – there was 12 year’s between them, to the day.

(A digression into Chinese astrology could be inserted here.)

Then yesterday morning, having let the poultry out of their houses, Al woke me cautiously saying, “I have to tell you, Ted’s neck doesn’t work.” After breakfast I went to see. He did not have a full range of movement in his neck and it was affecting his ability to see, manoeuvre, feed etc. He could make a lot of sounds, but he could not crow. What the use of a cock who cannot crow?

Come to think of it, I had heard a bit of a kerfuffle in the hen house the night before, and I hate to say it, but I think he may have been the victim of attempted fratricide. We kept him safe through the day in the ‘hospital’ in the greenhouse, while we discussed his fate. By the evening he was still unable to do a full range of normal cockerel behaviour, and clearly unhappy. He stumbled out of the seclusion ward to make his way to bed, but his brothers jumped on him and Al had to break it up.

So after dark, we took him to the woodshed, where terrible things happen. It makes us cry at the best of times, having to draw back the veil. To do so at this time of year – Imbolc, Candlemas, the feast of Saint Bridget, Gwyl San Ffraid, the quickening – as an offering to the memory of an archetypal maiden aunt –

Then we had a bath, and went out to hear Latitude play at the Mulberry Bush in Lampeter. We skipped the vegetarian meal. (Al’s food intolerances are so complex as to rule out eating out altogether.)

There’s no better way to bridge the Cartesian gap than to eat food. Central to my personal spirituality is a reverence for the nature of life – we all eat one another. This is what makes us a part of the great dance. How much closer can we hope to get with another being that to eat, or be eaten by them? Still, today I’m not much looking forward to my Sunday dinner.

Reverence for Nature

The light in this valley is utterly enchanting this evening.  There’s a pinkness in the clouds which brings up the intense red of embryonic buds on every broadleaf tree on the forested hillside opposite.  I don’t wish to speak too soon, but compared with last winter it has so far been almost unseasonally mild.  There’s already a springy feeling in the air, and it’s lifting my spirits.

When the light reaches a certain level it triggers a reflex in me to go out and entice the chickens into their run, for safe-keeping.  Then I go out again just after dark, once they’ve had supper and found their way into their little wooden house and I shut the door and bid them good night.  It’s not hard work really, and in return we get one or two lovely large eggs a day.

The girls are not laying so well these days.  At one time we were getting half a dozen eggs most days.  Then we lost Portia and a few days later Heulwen too, to the worm, as it turned out, although we didn’t realise in time to save either of them; but we were then able to medicate the others and fortunately we have a surviving flock of five: Louise (miracle chicken who got sucked by a fox and lived, then moulted spectacularly and is now looking quite plush in her new plumage), Gloria (currently our best looking hen), Saffron and Rosemary (the layers) and Smotyn the cockerel (a rather handsome fellow if small, compared to his wives).

Then there are the wild birds who share the supper.  In the last few days I’ve seen jackdaws, rooks, magpies, sparrows (about 50), blue tits, great tits, coal tits, robins, blackbirds, starlings, wagtails, nuthatches, and this is just in the garden.   Also sighted flying over have been crows, ravens, various seagulls, a heron,  geese, buzzards, kites and on one occasion a sparrow hawk.  At night we hear owls too, but only occasionally see them.

My friend Pete says we must be very tolerant, allowing the wildlife to share the chickens’ provisions in this way.  I suppose this is my attempt to answer his point:

They don’t all like chicken food.  The small birds also enjoy fat balls and peanuts which we’ve taken to hanging from the newly constructed log port in the yard.  It costs a few bob but it’s worth it.  I don’t think I can describe the feeling of joy which strikes my heart when I see my home surrounded by these vividly coloured flying creatures, their song drowning out any sound of passing cars.

And OK, the rooks are not melodious.  In fact they can be quite raucous at nesting time, with the odd aerial dog fight, so to speak.  I find it charmingly entertaining.  I very rarely need to resort to electrically powered amusements such as radio or TV.  So it may not be the most economically sustainable aspect of our lifestyle, but to be embedded in nature as we are here is less a matter of tolerance – more reverence.


Poor Portia

Typical! I’ve got not one but two job interviews to prepare for by Monday and poor Portia chooses today to need intensive care. She’s been anorexic for some time, but then I would be if I was bottom chicken, being picked on all the time. I’m sure you would too. It’s times like this I wonder why I like keeping chickens at all. Never mind poor table manners, these are creatures who will not only walk in their dinner, but will attempt to kill their own kind rather than share their food – even when there’s plenty for everyone!

I usually try to include at least one video clip and a Welsh phrase in each blog entry, but I’m not sure I’ve got time to do the research today, or any inspiration to know where to start searching for something to illustrate this theme. And although I’ve passed my Welsh GCSE with distinction, I’ve not yet done much in the way of idioms, certainly nothing to cover this situation.

She’s standing in a box of hay in the corner of the sitting room, at an odd angle for a chicken, somewhat resembling a penguin, but with the wrong shape feet.

By the way, I’m sorry, to my loyal readers, that’s it’s been so long since my last entry. After the fox had the last flock, and the winter set in, I was snowed in for a few weeks with Louise, the only surviving hen, living in the cwtch dan star (cupboard under the stairs) and I nearly went crazy. It was a full time job fetching in firewood and trying to keep warm enough to stay alive in this draughty little council house, in what some people call the coldest place on earth (why does everyone always have to exaggerate so much about the Welsh weather?)

The original idea was to write about sustainable development themes, of which chicken keeping would be a small part. I thought people might like to read about my reflections on the ethics of various lifestyle choices, the challenges of carbon reduction in sub-prime housing stock, the highs and lows of country living etc. It hasn’t quite worked out like that.

Spring came and with it a work placement, which is a bit like a job only badly paid and very demanding. Barely enough time to look after myself and my partner and grand daughter; but we couldn’t have just one chicken, so when someone advertised on the Freecycle network 300 ex-bats seeking new homes, we immediately went to collect Heulwen (sunshine), Saffron, Rosemary, Gloria and Portia – or poor Portia, as she’s come to be known. (Smotyn, or Smot y Ceiliog / Spot the Cockerel, is another story altogether.)

Summer saw me flat out revising for my exam while Lauren prepared for ten or so of the blighters. She did very well, incidentally, with three A*s. Then she moved to live with her Mum, and Al and I spent a bit of time getting reacquainted in time for our fifth anniversary. And now this.

Now Al has wrapped a blue fleece around poor Portia, and she looks like a chickeny Madonna – the Virgin, not Madge – or then again …


Feathers and Fur

When I was a little girl, my mother wore a fox fur hat she’d made herself from a pelt brought her by her suitor – later to become my step-father.  You wouldn’t see such a thing these days, since the Greenpeace campaign against the mink industry; even Raisa Gorbachov forsook the iconic item of her national costume, the fur hat, in order to woo the West.

Now-a-days all the TV news reporters go to snow-blocked motorway locations and file reports hatless, looking faintly ridiculous with snow settling on their bald heads.  Hats per se are out of fashion. 

At my grand daughter’s comprehensive school the rules forbid hats or umbrellas.  How are we supposed to cope with the climate even as it stands, let alone as it changes, if peer pressure dictates that we drive everywhere, regardless how treacherous the roads, rather than walk which would necessitate sensible clothing?  So I was almost relieved to read recently that Practical Fashion is making a comeback. 


This story appeared in the paper last March, but it wasn’t until today, when I came to light the fire, that I actually read it.  Or rather Lauren read out to me several extracts, while I scrunched and twisted pages into firelighters, the way my grand mother taught me. 

I don’t buy newspapers.  I can’t afford them and I don’t think they represent good value for money.  When would I find time to read them?  Also it’s just too environmentally costly for me to condone.  I reuse my father-in-law’s backdated copies of the Times, catching up on the Spring and Summer stories in Autumn and Winter.  Only if I get wind of something really dramatic occurring in the wide world do I tune in to the news media via the internet.  Otherwise I rely entirely on rumour, gossip and hearsay, which might be what gives me my well-known quirky take on things.

Take Friday, for example: Fur-free Friday.  Seymour  from the Ystwyth Valley Sawmill had delivered a load beautiful dry, seasoned 8″ hardwood logs the day before, but his Land Rover had blocked the road outside our house.  Which meant our neighbour Julia had to park at the end of the road and walk up; so she said to me, in passing, to be careful because a fox had had her girls.  (We chicken-fanciers tend to refer to hens as ‘our girls.’)  She was visibly shaken so I comforted her and we took each other on a tour of our respective gardens, discussing the security or otherwise  of our runs and coops. 

Meanwhile we could hear barking dogs and shouting men and the occasional gunshot across the valley.  Hunting with horse and hounds has been banned, but there’s no law against tracking a fox on foot and trying to shoot him.  Several of our neighbours who had lost poultry had banded together, across the language divide, to do just that.

I was worried about our little flock, particularly Thelma who, because of her bad leg, usually sleeps in a disabled-accessible box in the garden with a stone across the door.  That night Al came home early from work and helped  Thelma into bed in Salubrious Place, the luxurious chicken house we bought flatpack when the chicks were due, which stands in a vermin proof run.  When Owain crowed at dawn, and Al went to get everyone up, Thelma negotiated the steep ramp down from her new sleeping quarters and was so proud of herself.

But when they saw the snow falling in big lazy flakes and settling thickly on the lawn, they were horrified and complained loudly outside my study window all through the morning, while I battled to complete an assignment within a tight deadline.  Then mid morning I received a phone call to say that Lauren’s school was closing due to the snow and could I come and pick her up.

Before I left I took the chickens some warm water and a snack of wild bird seed.  I wrapped up warm in my fake fur hat and leather gloves (all the better to grip the steering wheel, my dear) and had to drive at top speed twenty miles an hour due to poor visibility and slippery road surfaces.  When I reached the school there was chaos: buses and children and parents and teachers skidding all over the place.  I eventually found Lauren in the library, and we made our way home.

No sooner we came in the house than she shouted, “there’s a fox in the garden” and I was out there like a shot but too late.  I shouted at him and although he was not at all scared of me, he took my point and jumped over the fence out of sight.  I located everyone but Owain.  Louise was showing signs of life so I picked her up and took her into the house, where Lauren put her in a box with a pink jumper, while I went straight back out to see if there was hope for anyone else. 

As I entered the garden I saw him again jumping over the fence, this time in the other direction, across Gwen’s garden and towards the woods, with Delyth’s neck in his teeth, her wings flapping frantically.  Dilys lay twisted in the snow but breathing and trying to move.  I brought her into the house and returned for Thelma, but it was pointless.  Although her heart was still beating, her neck was clearly broken.  I knew in an instant that I had to end her suffering.  I carried her body into the yard, found a box for her and placed her in the greenhouse out of harms way.

When I came back into the house I found that Dilys was still fighting for life on the living room floor, but she was unable to raise her head or support her weight at all; she was not going to make it and it seemed to be just a matter of time.  I decided to sit with her til the end; but I couldn’t bear to see her suffering so.  I fetched some dilute brandy and tried to sedate her with the fumes, to ease her passing.  But it only gave her the courage and strength to struggle more.  I couldn’t endure it.  I took her out in the yard and finished what the fox had started.  Her blood looked so shockingly red against the pristine snow.  I found a box for Dilys and put her poor body in the greenhouse next to Thelma’s. 

Then Lauren and I went out to look for Owain.  We never found him, but we saw that fox again.  He came back into our garden to where our girls had lain, and sniffed everywhere to try and find them.  Then he headed off across the road and into the field with the horses.  He made a couple of punch-drunk lunges at the magpies under the ancient oak but they flew up out of reach.  Then the horses ran at him and tried to chase him off.  He retired a short distance and sat in the field, staking out the scene.  Our neighbour was aiming an air gun at him, but he cunningly kept the horses between him and the marksman. 

That’s when I remembered my Mum’s fox fur hat.  If my feelings associated with the whole business of chicken-keeping are mixed, so are my feelings on foxes.  I think I would support the campaign against the fur industry if it meant an end to animals suffering in cages and slaughterhouses; in the same way that I can no longer buy eggs from producers I do not know, who may not treat their chickens with respect. 

Just as I prefer to know the name of the hen who laid my egg, I think I’d like to have met the fox who grew the fur for my hat.  But for the time being he’s still at large.  He’s young, fit, agile and hungry.  And Louise is making a gradual recovery in the ‘cwtch dan star’ (that’s Welsh for ‘cupboard under the stairs’).

Chicken and Egg

The pace of life can sometimes seem too quick, even here in Ceredigion which is considered by many to be a quiet, peaceful sort of place.  About a month ago I began a draft blog, which I never had time to finish.  It read:

“Paul was here for breakfast this morning, so we had pancakes and bacon.  I read recently that eggs and bacon is a days work for a hen, a lifetime’s commitment for a pig.  Mind you, you don’t want to believe everything you read.  I also read recently the following poser:  if one and a half hens lay one and a half eggs every one and a half days, how many eggs in a week?  Answers on a postcard, please.

“Pancakes is a great way of sharing one egg between three.  All these chickens and only one egg.  Mair, Fflur and Olwen are growing up fast but won’t come into lay for another eight weeks yet.  That’s why we got Thelma and Louise.  But they’re taking a little while to settle in and haven’t resumed laying yet.

“Hinge was our best layer.   She laid about 13 eggs per fourtnight, every one of them extra large, brown and beautiful.”

Today, about four weeks later, we had pancakes and bacon again.  Paul was not here, just Lauren, Al and I.  They were delicious buckwheat pancakes.  We used four small eggs – not home grown though, bought in from a local producer, Nant Clyd via the Organic Fresh Food Company in Lampeter. 

Louise has settled into laying one egg most days, which is not quite enough for a family of three.  Thelma’s leg is mended in a permanently bent position and although we reckon she has a pretty good quality of life, she  is showing no signs of laying.  We are hopeful for Delyth and Dilys, whose feathers are looking good after a lengthy moult, so they may come into lay again soon…  But as for Mair, Fflur and Olwen –

We went through a brief spell of calling them Meirion, Florian and Owain Glyndwr, after their voices broke.  The woman our neighbour sent round to fetch a breeding pair (if you remember) turned out to be her daughter, who wanted free hens.  We got a couple of weeks entertainment out of watching three fast-growing cockerels fighting over food, territory and women; but soon it (and the grass in our little back garden) began to wear thin.  We made a decision.

One night last week, soon after dark, Al stole into the chicken run, opened the back door of Salubrious Place (as the principle roost is called), took the two white cockerels off their perch, into the back yard and did the deed. 

Very soon afterwards we were at work plucking them (it’s best done while they’re still warm).  It’s hard work.  There were feathers everywhere.  Although both Al and I can recall assisting in preparing birds for the table as children, neither of us was too confident of the correct order of proceedings, so we consulted  Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Cookbook, which was rather scant on detail; then resorted to Una McGovern’s ‘Lost Crafts: rediscovering traditional skills’ Chambers, Edinburgh 2009 (a birthday present from Al’s Mum).

We ate one, roasted, on Tuesday night, to celebrate Als’ starting full time work.  We’ve since had a second meal and a very tasty soup of him.  The other is in the freezer ready for Christmas.  It’s hard to describe the strong feelings associated with this whole process; not least the sense of completion once feels, having raised a chicken from the egg, to then polish him off and bury the bones under a hypericum.  Oh what a day!

I never got a very good photo of Merion and Florian, but here’s a famous cousin of theirs in the lead role of film which also features Eryka Badu.


Al is away this weekend and I’m in charge of chicken breakfast shift, not something I normally relish.  At least the dawn is quite late at this time of year; but it’s cold and I’m not well.  I dosed up on amoxicilin and paracetamol, dressed in several layers and braved the morning dew.

Here in Betws Bledrws icy mist slithers up the valley like a shimmering dragon at dawn, captivating the landscape in its chilling embrace.  Salmon pink sunlight glancing off its scales, the totem beast of this magical nation blesses every oak and thorn, coiling at their roots.  For a moment I’m awestruck by the majestyof the morning.

That was when I heard it.  That sound, coming from ‘salubrious place’ where Mair and Fflur were sleeping lastnight.

Lastnight Betty drws nesaf (next door) told me she knew a woman who wanted some laying hens for a friend, so I said I had a breeding pair of Light Sussex for sale.  After a quick phone call she confirmed that the woman will be round in the next day or two to collect them. 

But this morning, in the foxy half light I saw the glimmer of green in Fflur’s tail and Mair’s neck feathers.  I don’t think  females are usually so decorative.  I think it’s time we changed their names, definitely; found them new homes if possible; or ate them.

Al says they’re Mabel’s babies and she’ll miss them if they go, so there’s no way she could do the deed.  I think I might be emotionally strong enough, but not physically.  I’d hate to do a bad job.  So what do we do?  Keep up the pretense and palm them off on our neighbour’s friend?  This is a small commuity.  A trick like that could backfire.

The last two mornings Al asked me “did you hear it?” but I didn’t.  Today there was no mistaking it.  Either Mair (that’s Welsh for Mary) or Fflur (that’s Welsh for Flora) crowed – possibly both.  Cock-a-doodle-doo!  Try saying that in predictive text!  Instead of ‘doodle’ I got ‘fondle’ and that’s the printable suggestion. 

One other idea that’s been vaguely mooted is to ‘find a field’.  I don’t know quite what this means.  I think perhaps if we could find a patch of land to rent nearby, Al would happily attempt to raise a flock of Light Sussex.  They are a good old-fashioned breed who lay well and make good table birds.  Many varieties of chicken these days are specialised to perform one or the other of these services, but not both.  One is permitted to keep up to 49 birds for ‘personal use’ before the operation is seen as commercial and another layer of legislation kicks in.

Alternatively, she may be suggesting liberating them.  Chickens, like pheasants, have never naturalised in Britain; although we did see, last week on the verge of the A470 Heads of the Valleys road, just north of Pontypridd, a bantam cockerel scratching a living.  Now that’s what I call free range.