Monday, June 23, 2014

Follow that Hen!

The hens are on strike.   No longer do we - that is Audrey or Alex - find three to four eggs a day in the hen-house, at best there are two.  After more than a year at La Chaise, with freedom to roam all over the front courtyard except for Audrey's vegetable garden, egg production has virtually stopped.

Obviously there are seasons for egg-laying and seasons for repose when the hens are moulting, growing new (more glamorous) feathers, for example. But that should not be the case now.   Perhaps it is because of the unseasonable heat.   Perhaps, Audrey opines darkly, the hens are 'laying away', which being translated means they are hiding their eggs prior to brooding on them and raising chicks.  Pause for an 'aaah-oo' moment.
The hens, and cockerel, in morning conference.
But since we still want eggs, prefer them to fluffy little chicks that will be attacked by every furred and four footed menace in the woods, some one is going to have to spy on the hens to see where they are laying. For a human, stalking a hen is not easy, they scare quickly. But we are all on the alert, watching to see if any hen is behaving oddly, in places where she should not be.

What is the Little Black Hen looking for?

Often, when A&A are out late, it is my privilege to close up the hen-house, checking first with a torch to see if it has its full complement of birds.  A ripple of irritated chirping accompanies the sweep of my torch beam.  Sometimes I even let the birds out in the morning if I think their overseers are oversleeping.

A new dimension has been added to this occasional task.   There are now a flock of chickens-for-eating at La Chaise.  At present they are small and noisy, live in the woods near A&A's front door and sleep in a chicken caravan. This was created especially by Alex so that he could move the flock to new grounds if it seemed they had exhausted their existing territory.  So far, not necessary.  
A caravan fit for fowl - roof closed.

One night I went to close them up - and found them all perched at the back of the open roof of the chicken caravan.   Now i loathe handling hens.  They squawk, flap their wings, are apparently insubstantial and, once scared, become very stupid.   So i took a deep breath and pushed them, one by one, down into the belly of the chicken caravan, then quickly lowered the roof. And even more quickly went to pull up the ramp  that closes their terrace.

in the process I managed to lose an ear-ring - an elegant silver set garnet pendant hanging from a black pearl clip.  A day later Alex found the garnet in the scratchings around the feed bowl, two days later I found the pearl clip near the water reservoir.   My luck was in.


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