Today we made a start on re-stocking our little smallholding with that most versatile of creatures, the chicken. Or rather, four chickens (despite the ardent lobbying of the toddler son who for some reason had the figure of twenty stuck firmly in his head). We had decided to offer a genteel home county retirement to some ex-battery hens and so it was with some trepidation that I set off to the meeting point at a stables with a couple of old moving boxes and a husband at home putting the finishing touches to the wooden henhouse and run that we’d inherited when buying our little farm.
I have to admit that I was impressed by the no-nonsense efficacy of the British Hen Welfare Trust. I arrived and queued at the “hen check-in” desk, was duly ticked off the list and handed a token with a big “4” on it. I walked ten yards to a loose box where the hen activists were ready with my girls already in their arms (the whole thing is a rapid conveyor belt), had three boxed within seconds of arrival and was sent scurrying back to the car for an extra box for the fourth hen who, it was decreed, would need a bit more space for the drive home.
And that was that! They carried the boxes over to the car and loaded them up and waved me on my way! The girls were very quiet on the way home, all of them politely and calmly sitting down in their boxes. They did, however, pong to high heaven, and doing the national speed limit on the motorway with the windows open (in the interests of self-preservation) was a rather invigorating experience in late October.
I arrived home to be greeted by our little boy who sprinted up to the car (and right past me) shouting “Hens! You’ve got hens in the back! Can you open it? Please?!”. We decanted the hens into their new home and let them peck about and have some food and waterbefore Mr Land amused the rest of the family by coaxing reluctant hens into their house.
They actually seemed very relaxed about the whole experience, although one is already establishing herself as a bit of a bully by wandering up to the others and pecking them for no good reason at all which is a bit worrying. I wonder if we’ll have an egg tomorrow? I suspect they’ll need a while to settle into their new home so I’m going to get busy working out a free range run for them to use during the day, and looking up how to get Maddie the puppy used to them. How exciting, their arrival makes this whole smallholding project suddenly feel real!