16 MARCH 2002, Page 76

Q. Would you kindly advise me as to the gentlemanly

way to deal with ill-mannered chickens? I met one such virago while sitting on a bench in a delectable spot in Derbyshire, when she jumped up and tried to grab a sandwich from my hand. Bystanders thought this performance hysterically amusing. A large, plump, red hen she was. Matronly, you would have thought. But I should have been forewarned by the fearsome stare she had been bestowing on me before the assault on my sandwich and dignity. Despite offerings of bits

of said sandwich, she continued to make it clear that appeasement was not on her agenda; she wanted the lot. And intimidation, she clearly believed, was the method to employ on this cowering human. I understand that some chicken experts begin their careers by studying the expressions on the faces of chickens which are laying eggs. Having been deprived of this valuable education myself, I have to seek advice elsewhere. As it is absolutely certain that I shall be risking further encounte-rs with the Chatsworth Terror (as I have named her). I should be truly grateful for advice as to how I may comport myself to avoid further embarrassment and humiliation, and becoming all shook up, as one might say. May I say that I have never been more serious in my life.

Nervous of Woodbridge, Suffolk A. I have consulted the owner of the Chatsworth Terror and she says that she is very sorry. It is not the first chicken complaint she has had. 'They get in people's cars if the doors are open, and can be a nuisance; quite sharp beaks.' She suggests that perhaps the chickens could be looked on as wildlife, which means that, however much of a nuisance they are, they are sacrosanct and must do as they like. 'Badgers are another good example; they ruin gardens and there is no redress. Or the sandwich-eater could come into the garden, or just give in and share his lunch.' She is very glad that 'Nervous' plans to come back.