My hens are having a trying time at the moment. Long term readers of my blog will know that, when I choose hens, common sense and practicality fly out of the window. I’m steely eyed and sensible when it comes to sheep (well, up to a point I am. Apart from teaching Teazle to shake hands that is) and I know that this is how I should be with hens. What I need are good solid hybrid hens to lay eggs and keep out of trouble. But when I see frills and feathery feet, I lose my head and what I actually get are the very opposite of sensible. My flock is composed of pekins, frizzles and other impractical bantams, and they give me a ridiculous amount of pleasure and the occasional egg.
On a summers’ day, when they are pecking around the garden you’ve never seen anything so pretty. The frizzles look as if they’ve got on the wrong side of an industrial wind tunnel, while the pekins are soft fluffy feather balls. And of course when a frizzle feels a Special Something for a pekin (or vice-versa), the resultant chicks are truly fab – blobs of twirly feathers with frilly slippers sticking out from underneath. Prize for the maddest chicken goes to the frizzle Polish cockerel (remember Wenceslas?) who combines the wind tunnel look with seriously Big Hair. His chicks are fluffy, and frilly, and have inbuilt fascinators, and just to make it perfect the whole lot come in a delightful rainbow of colours.
Then Indie (whippet puppy) came to live here, which means that for the moment (for their own safely) the hens are banned from the garden. Indie’s not that bad, and getting better, but the hens are liable to panic and shed feathers if he looks at them in a funny way. So it’s better if they don’t meet until Indie has reached the age of reason.
So the hens are confined in what used to be a pretty, grassy henrun. Because of the recent extreme rain it was tending to mud but the hens, in their fury at being incarcerated, have trodden it into a wallow. Pekins have practically no ground clearance and frizzles are just silly, and everybody has got plastered in liquid mud. The hens now spend their days doing very obvious preening and giving me dirty looks. And if I think I’m going to get any eggs at all until I’ve got Indie under control and they are allowed back into their flower bed dust baths – well, I can forget it.