With all the kids to stay, we had a hectic but fun filled week. It was busy, noisy, fun … and we planned to do it on another school holiday week. We even made time to visit Tony and Duane where the children sat on his big old fire engine, see an old style aeroplane and hear the story told about the ‘flying tigers’. With all the kids faces upturned and listening intently to the story of how the Americans and Chinese joined forces to push the Japanese out…or ‘kick them up the arse’, as Tony said. Pretty funny as he was telling the story to children 3 to 8yrs old! We fed the new baby lambs and delighted in their waggling tails, guzzling, nuzzling and bunting of each other.
Contented lambs at Tony and Duanes
Because the rain had cleared the next day and the sun was streaming into the nesting boxes when I went down to collect the eggs, I propped open the lid. I could hear the children laughing and playing happily outside so took the opportunity to quickly dig over the first bay of the hen run ready for sweetcorn before picking some bok choi for dinner.
Because I thought Simone was preparing dinner I ran it up to her so she knew I had that cut ready, but she was grumpy so I stopped to help her finish the dinner prep, and Because the kids all began to stream inside, tired and hungry, we served up dinner, then bathed and readied them for bed and I never went back out.
Because Tara was allowing the boys to stay over we excitedly chose books and headed to the big bed and snuggled in for stories and before long we were all sound asleep. Yep me included.
Because Tara was coming the next morning I decided to go to work later in the morning, and because of my late start Gilbert thought he would help me and had let Paddy out of his box. I didn’t rush out to feed him early, thinking he could just wait a bit while I had a lovely breakfast with the children before going out to feed the animals.
But Because I had left the nesting box propped open ALLLLL night, one of the new hens who knew nothing about Paddy, had jumped out and began to explore… and Because I didn’t feed Paddy as soon as he was let out I didn’t see the nesting lid open and so I didn’t know he gave chase and later found our beautiful brown new hen dead on the path by the hen run.
Aaaaarrrrgggggghhhhhhh! “How did it happen”, Tara asked me later. ‘Because…’
We then had just nine hens but all producing a lovely clutch of eggs each morning. Enough that I could give the occasional dozen away and we were all happy again. Then Gilbert came home and asked me if I wanted more hens as a lady had asked him when he was fixing her spa. He thought there were five and I considered it. We had enough hens and eggs but our run was certainly big enough for at least twice what we had. if we had more, I thought, maybe we could sell the extra eggs, thereby paying for ALL the food and making the supply for us free. Good scheme I decided and emailed her and said yes, but on collecting them discovered there was ten not five.
We put them in the pen beside our old ones and chuckled as they threw themselves into the netting, at each other, very cock like with chests stuck out and necks ruffled. “The pecking order is about to be reshuffled”. I said to Tara. “I will keep them in separate pens until I had locked each one away and made sure they were all laying and if not, I’m afraid they will be compost. I can’t be feeding hens that aren’t laying”, I added. “This is not a retirement home for hens and we are not a charity I explained to the kids. We’ll figure it out and pop a tag on the laying hens legs”.
Tara and I had had a couple of wines by then and were in the kitchen starting dinner. Tara immediately went into hen posture, dipping her knees and lifting her arms into wings she began to strutt around the kitchen…Asking the other ‘hens’ …”whats the thing you’ve got on your leg? Where’d you get that from, What’s going on in the box anyway. Why can’t we all go there?” “I don’t know, the other hens would say. I just went in and laid an egg and when I came out she tagged me…”
Tara’s eyes opened wide as her hen-mind realised what was going on.
I then became a hen also, play acting beside her… “Whats the matter? You just have to lay an egg and then you get a tag”. “By now Tara was running around and around the kitchen…eyes wide. “Shit, shit, shit, Gimme your tag, you can go in and lay another egg”.
“No, lay your own egg they all would answer. “I can’t lay any! Tara squealed, I’ve been through henopause!” At which we fell about about laughing. Imagine all the hens refusing to give over their tag and the non laying ones trying to peel off the tags in the dead of the night as they sit up on perches. It was so funny, made even funnier as we mimicked the hens bobbing heads and strutting postures. Ahhh how much pleasure like minded people can have after just two glasses of wine…
Nine brown shavers eggs as the egg laying begins
Still to buy the tags I put a note on the fridge and started noting down eggs as they came in. Not sure if you know but each hens egg can be identified pretty closely to a hen. Its almost like a fingerprint. Though these brown shavers are very similar. You’ll be pleased to know it looks like all are laying. We got ten eggs out of the ten in a pen yesterday. This is what nine brown shavers eggs look like. Its interesting as when a hen is beginning to lay she doesn’t always get it right. It might be a tiny, tiny egg or one that has a skin but no shell and you might see that here. Paddy got the no shell one. I like something between her backside and my poached egg. Also I read that hens can lay hundreds of eggs but the delivery slows down after the first couple of years, which is when battery hens get turfed out.
Our place is like the Hen Hilton. Lots of room to wander, Six large and airy nesting boxes. A large always dry area under the house where hens can get out of the sun or the rain and dust bathe. However our old ones are not so welcoming to the newcomers and once we put them together an all out brawl starts.
One on one mostly they are at each other and Wheriko and I are throwing out fresh comfry leaves, puha and some grain along with some left overs. We hoped keeping them busy would help but we started telling them off. “Leave her alone”, we yelled as we tried to separate a couple. It seemed a bit hopeless and I said to Wheri. “I think we just let them sort it out. The last group became friends without too much fuss and we followed the same regime”. So we headed back up for dinner and hoped there would be no casualties. Just on dusk I sneaked out again and the new were perched on the recooperation unit and the old ones inside on their perches.
Time for bed
I gently lifted drowsy hens inside and onto the perches beside the old ones and sat back and listened. A little bit of clucking but by and large it was quiet. Wonder what daylight will bring I thought, as they look at the stranger on the perch beside them in the early morning light. Haha!