Sunday, 15 August 2010

The search for eggs begins

After the excitement of putting my hens to bed last night I could hardly sleep for thinking about them tucked up in their coop. Would they be too squashed together? Would they get too cold after the controlled atmosphere of the battery farm they were used to? Would they be frightened when plunged into total darkness for over ten hours?
Fretting absurdly about the hens' welfare I finally fell asleep at midnight thinking about my girls.  I even dreamt about them before waking at 6.00am, desparate to check they were all okay. I couldn’t sleep any more knowing my hens had the opportunity to witness their first ever sunrise, so like an excited child at Christmas I leapt up and straight into my wellies over my pyjamas.
Dawn chorus
Up at the chicken enclosure the other hens were all out of their coop already, the cockerel busy announcing the dawning of another day. With some anticipation I opened up the door to the new hens' coop. Would they have survived the night?
The hens were grouped in pairs, snuggled up together, looking a little startled but definitely alive. Slowly I lowered the ramp taking care not to drop a hen straight down onto the grass below, expectantly waiting for them to emerge into the pen but no, they weren’t showing the same enthusiasm for coming out as they had going in.
Now I had a dilemma. In my enthusiasm to let my hens out at 6.00am I failed to remember I could do with some help from my husband, who was fast asleep and unlikely to be as enthusiastic as me about the prospect of disturbing a Sunday morning lie-in. The cockerel was becoming rather over excited at the prospect of seeing his new girlfriends again and was strutting around the outside of the pen like an Italian stallion, and was showing great interest in hopping into the pen every time I tried to open it.
The problem was how to get the hens into the pen without opening it in advance, thus allowing the cockerel time to jump in while my back was turned. This is how I found myself chasing a cockerel at six in the morning in my pyjamas to the far side of the enclosure, racing back, grabbing a hen, closing the coop with a swing of my bottom then dropping her into the open pen before the cock had time to run back. I had to repeat this merry dance four times and I swear if someone had walked into the field at that moment they would have reported me to the RSPCA. Tomorrow morning I am going to wait for my husband to wake up.

Egg hunt
Come 11.00am, I am back at the hen house, now I am fretting that they haven’t got enough shade so I went up to put some cover over part of their pen. Only three hens are in view, one of them must have gone back up to the coop. A quick inspection shows that, yes, the most chestnut coloured hen, now christened Ginger, is sitting on a nest of straw up in the coop.
Hunkering down, I watch the other hens for ten minutes pecking around the grass, and eventually Ginger slowly emerges down the ramp to rejoin her friends. Before I leave, a quick check to see if there are any eggs, but no, nothing in sight. I rustle the straw just to make sure and my hand brushes something hard and unmistakably oval.
An egg! A beautiful, perfect, brown egg laid by Ginger. Despite my elation I don’t feel I can feed it to my family, this is still a stressed out battery hen egg after all, but I present it to David (husband) and Teddy (son) as a most beautiful work of art.

Later that night Teddy comes to help put the hens to bed and asks if he can check for eggs. I am convinced there are no more but let him check just for the fun of it, and am totally surprised when he holds aloft egg number two with an excited cry of “Mummy, another egg!”.
So, day two and two eggs. At this rate we will be eating omelettes every day. I wonder which hen laid the second one, and more importantly how on earth can I tell the other three hens apart and what to name them?
Suggestions on a postcard please.

1 comment:

david.parsley said...

Well done darling. This is a great blog. And you were right to get the chickens. They're very cute. And free eggs from now on. That's no yoke!