Monday, 30 September 2013

New Girls

It's very calm in the hen's paddock today. The sort of calm that comes after a lot of palaver, once the kerfuffle has died away.
65 hens have passed through our paddock in the last few weeks, on their way from an existence in a cage to a real, proper, henny sort of life, filled with extravagant luxuries such as sunlight, fresh air and space.
(If you didn't see my last post, you can find out why our field has been Hen Central here)

Wellington, Mistress Bluebell, Goldilocks, Frau Spekl and Mrs Scissorhands aren't sure what is going on

Today the last five went with the In-Charge at lunch-time, en route to their new home in Donegal.
It's been like that for weeks - two here, three there, six somewhere else.Now there are just four left, four who will be staying permanently.

I kept all the rescues separate for awhile, to recover in peace and quiet, and also to check that they weren't obviously sick, but for the last week or so, I've been letting them out each day to mingle with my own little flock.

Watching hens is always interesting. They lead quite busy little lives, given the opportunity. And despite what many people think, they have quite distinct personalities.
I've never had so many hens here before, and over the last few weeks I've felt more than once as I imagine a teacher must feel, watching the new 'babies' coming into the school in September.
Some are brave and bold, some are so shy they hide away all the time. Some come out if you give them something - in this case food and water, others are completely independent and seem oblivious of everyone else. Some would be bullies if you let them, others easily take on the role of victim, and one or two want to be 'teacher's pet' right from the start.

This morning I decided to let them 'choose' who was going to Donegal and who was staying. I thought it would be easier to let the permanent residents out into the field with my hens and keep the girls-in-transit in the pen so I could catch them later on. I'd already planned to keep the Yah Bird (as in 'Yah, Baldy!' although we have never mentioned the Bald part in her hearing, poor thing), but I thought I'd let the others decide for themselves.

Poor little Yah Bird looks more like a turkey than a hen. A very, very, very small turkey that is.

Not surprisingly, Constance Markievictz was first at the door, pecking at the gate to be let out, not interested in the breakfast bowl I was waving. I ushered the Yah Bird out with her, and then waited. Florence hesitated on the threshold, but then took the plunge and Wilhelmina followed a moment later.

Florence and Wilhelmina

Then I closed the gate, but the others - unaware of the fate they had chosen - didn't seem to mind. They circled around eyeing the 'red bowl' which they have come to recognise quite quickly, and dived in as soon as the food was spilled into the lengths of old guttering which serve as feeders.
They didn't know it would be their last meal as our guests before heading off on their own new adventure.

I've been out in the field again this afternoon, just standing, watching them all, Model Dog and SuperModel lying beside me.

SuperModel watching in fascination as one of the Little Ones has a bath

It was calm and quiet and very pleasant as I washed out all the water containers and refilled them, checked for eggs and picked up the empty courgette skins.Split in half, the girls love gobbling up the soft flesh and young seeds of any courgettes that have turned into vast, green aliens in the night watches, but I had nothing to offer them as they rushed over expectantly. Later on I'll check the vegetable garden for any lurking treats.

It's always a good thing to do, stand and watch the flock.
Today I could see that Wellington is still feeling very sorry for himself. He is moulting and has lost most of his beautiful tail feathers. I hope that's all that's wrong. He's a lovely boy, and I'd hate to lose him. But I think poultry often feel a bit low when they change their feathers. Frau Spekl was with him, also looking a bit mis.

Mistress Bluebell, however, wished to Have Words. She stared me in the eye. 'I hope you're not bringing any more of those miserable, flea-bitten hens here!' she said.

'Hens?' crowed Mrs Scissorhands. 'Hens? Hens have feathers and good, red combs! Those flittered fowl are not hens!'
How right she is, but they will be soon.

It was at this point that I noticed Constance Markievicz racing around under the tree like a demented dervish. I wondered whether I'd made a mistake in keeping her, perhaps she has serious issues? Perhaps she's a lunatic hen? I knew she was a hen-with-attitude (that's how she came by her name) - attitude is one thing, issues are different.
But then I saw that she was in fact just chasing flies.
Just being normal.

Esmerelda, my beautiful young Barnavelder

Esmerelda and the Little Ones had no opinion on the new arrivals, as befits the fact that they are fairly new arrivals themselves. I didn't ask Goldilocks because she - her with the green legs - is just plain bad, badness personified, and in any case she is an air-head. Frau Spekl is, like Wellington, rather too taken up with her own moulting-miseries to care just now, but I know the Golden Girls are appalled, just frankly appalled that anyone so dreadfully kitted out as the rescues should presume to be in their paddock

The Golden Girls are just appalled

But they'll soon be beautiful again. 'Or at least presentable', I assured my lovely Brahmas. 'It's not their fault. And you must be kind to them,' I added.

In front of me the Yah Bird marched purposefully up to Model Dog, standing patiently waiting for me. In true hen-fashion, she turned her bare, gizzardy neck and stared at Model Dog with one beady, penetrating eye. Then she marched a little closer and stared again. My lovely, gentle hound seemed unaware of the scrutiny, but a moment later the Yah Bird rushed in, lunged up and pecked my poor girl on the face before running away as fast as her scrawny frame would carry her.
Model Dog shrank back and I burst out laughing.
'I don't think kindness is something they've come across,' I said, rubbing the sore furry face pressed against my knee. 'Not up until now, anyway.'

Something else for my new girls to learn about.
To learn through experience.
Something all the rest of them will learn too, hopefully - all 7000 hens that LittleHill Animal Rescue & Sanctuary saved in this brilliant rescue operation.


  1. Ah, they seem to be coming in leaps and bounds. I shall look forward to seeing them plump and feathered. Your dogs are so well behaved. Lucky hens. :)

    1. Hello Isobel. Yes, they are coming on. It seems slow progress to me, I must say, but perhaps I am (as usual) being impatient! Yes, my dogs are well behaved, although SuperModel does have her moments... the less said the better!

  2. I just love your writing style!

  3. Woke up this morning after a horrible day yesterday and you managed with that writing to make me smile :)

  4. I have, you will be pleased to hear, signed up for some rescue hens from Wigan, they arrive on or about the 16th. So today Gordon is collecting stone from Ross-on-Wye with another Gordon who is going to pave part of his dog run with it and will in return help my Gordon to put up the fox proof wire around the enclosure for my eagerly awaited hens.
    I hope they will mostly range free in the garden but Urban fox is evolving fast rom the rural ones that used to be too frightened to come across from the fields.

    1. Great news, Skippy! You will NOT be sorry, and nor will they, poor little things. Hope they aren't in such bad condition as the ones rescued here. I'm glad you will have hens again, I know you have always loved them.

  5. Woke this morning to horrendous rain, horrendous news of little girls being raped and my artistic muses frustrated after a night of tossing and turning.... was greeted with your beautiful words which have reminded me that the world is not all bad.... and that there are people who care out there. :) So glad to see your girls settling in well and being individual hens. Thank you.

    1. What a ghastly start to your day Joy, and yes, the news of those poor little girls was awful. No rain here, I'm happy to say - and thank you for your lovely comment. I'm glad I cheered you up! Yes, the new girls' characters are starting to come out quite noticeably!

  6. I loved reading this you have a special gift. Thank you :)

    1. Thank you Gillian. That is such a nice compliment, and makes my day!

  7. You are doing a wonderful job wtih these poor hens.

    1. Thanks Cait. What is even more wonderful is to think of people up and down the entire country doing the same with the rest of the 7000 that were rescued!


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