Monday, 9 April 2012

The Trials of Chicken-Keeping

We lost two of our chickens on Saturday, waking up in the morning to a vortex of dark feathers blowing around the garden: a sure sign that we had been visited by Mr Fox. Thankfully the evidence was nothing more grisly.

The children were delighted to see so many feathers (Gilby the naturalist has amassed a not-insignificant collection of feathers over his two-and-a-half-years on this earth). I didn't have the heart to explain why they were there, and have yet to make reference to the untimely demise of Gwinny and Nimue, a pair of black cochins who have been laying for about six months. They are survived by Cecily (a pretty Partridge Wyandotte bantam) who doesn't seem in the least bit bothered and is delighted to rule the roost once again.

We generally, though not exclusively, have 'Arthurian' named pets. Vivien (a Rhode Island Red stray rescued by Daddy) and Isolde (another Partridge Wyandotte), met a more dignified end last summer, dying 'peacefully' within a few days of each other.

This was in stark contrast to our first pair: Gertie (a Buff Orpington bantam) and Guinevere (our first Wyandotte). Guinevere came to a very sorry end when she was pecked to death by her 'friend' after just a few days. That was our not-so-happy introduction to smallholding, and a reminder of nature's cruelty. We took Guinevere back from whence she came (to a poultry farmer a few villages away) and swapped her for a pair of Wyandottes. One of whom is the still-surviving Cecily, but the other didn't make it through the first night, as 'something' (a stoat?) tunnelled beneath their little run and got her. We nearly didn't carry on after that.

But I do love the hens running round the garden and the eggs, of course, so we reinforced the run with concrete and chicken-wire beneath, and tried again. The black cochins were the best layers, but they unfortunately insisted on roosting in the trees above the henhouse rather than returning to the henhouse itself of an evening. There seemed to be nothing we could do about it, but we've learned our unhappy lesson and will ensure that any future birds are better trained.

RIP: Gwinny and Nimue


  1. We have a theory that as soon as your livestock hit optimal production levels they become dead-stock...

    We lost Betty over the winter and the girls were incredibly blood thirsty about it - Bigger kept bringing home paintings from nursery with 'this is the blood where Betty died and this is the footprints of the fox that killed Betty'... am still surprised they didn't ask me to come in for a little chat!

    1. I really think there must be something in your theory...we were getting so many eggs I was complaining!