Somebody asked me the other day what was the difference between ‘hens’ and ‘chickens’. And I’ve been pondering this (between getting Book ready for publication – I’m up to July – mopping up the mega leak and acting as butler/housekeeper/scullery maid to the animals). ‘Chickens’, to me, sound like the huddled masses. People talk about battery chickens more than battery hens. ‘Hens’ seem to have a touch more dignity. Occasionally I come by a pedigree hen, something with white ear patches, or frilly knickers, or a wild topknot. And I wouldn’t call one of those a chicken, or at least not in her hearing. Most of my hens are bantams, anyway, and different rules apply. Bantams don’t do batteries: they don’t have any truck with year-round laying, or living in little wire cages. And anyway, their eggs are too small (or in the winter, not at all). So if they were anything, they would be hens. My grandmother called the whole lot ‘fowl’, which seems to have gone out of fashion. Then there is ‘poultry’, which is a touch municipal, suggestive of a large commercial flock. And yet if I were to describe what comes running towards me whenever I appear outdoors with a bucket, it would have to be ‘poultry’ to include the hens/bantams, Precious the guinea fowl and McDuff. As a completely digression, may I introduce McDuff? He currently stars on my profile page for Twitter, for those who twit. He’s more than a peachick and isn’t quite a full peacock. A peanager? If he were human he’d be wearing a hoodie, chucking half bricks through windows and being well dodgy. As he’s a peanager, he chases the dogs, pecks gardening humans and when he can he nips indoors, jumps on the kitchen table and pulls apart any attempt I’ve made at flowers on the table. Back to the subject: I think I’ll stick with ‘hen’s for full size and ‘bantams’ for sawn-off. It works for me.