The Grand Duchess Henrietta Penelope

As we are living an up-to-date version of ‘The Good Life’ here in Galicia, we keep chickens. They are at present eating the bugs in the vegetable patch, supervised by Bertie the Rooster. It’s been a difficult start to 2011, with torrential rain each day, but today, at last the sun shone.
It’s not a particularly easy good life. We have 8 rooms, with electricity in 3 of them, a woodburner downstairs and no insulation. This means lots of layers of clothing and a great deal of moaning about the cold.
Still, with lots of free food (fungi, eggs and chestnuts) a decent garden and extraordinarily kind neighbours, we eat pretty well.

A man-with-a-van was moving back the UK and so we gave his eight chickens a home…..including ‘Henny Penny’. She had a name because she was his four year old son’s pet. Not that she answered to it. But she did respond to ‘buk buk’.
She was a little unusual. Small, brown and disabled. As far as we could work it out, her hips were twisted and so she dragged one of her legs.

At some point she was pecked around one of her eyes, which means that in order to focus, she had to half-close it, which was rather reminiscent of a grand duchess squinting through a lorgnette.

We kept her in our courtyard as she was bullied by the other girls and couldn’t defend herself against our cockerel, who just flattened her when he was having his wicked way.

The novelty of having a completely tame, limping chicken never wore off though. She liked to climb the stone staircase and then promenade around the balcony, which from downstairs sounded like an Igor off to help a mad scientist somewhere upstairs. Probably in another dimension..
Having explored upstairs and also having left various piles of evidence of her travels (very yucky when you stood in it), she then couldn’t get downstairs again, balance not being her strong point. At which point she squawked loudly until one of us rescued her.
She liked to sneak into the kitchen, but hadn’t quite realised that stealth does involve silence and not clucking when someone walked past.
She didn’t like to be evicted from the kitchen or lounge and would make quite a fuss as we picked her up. It was the avian equivalent of ‘Don’t you know who I am?’
She had her uses though. She was extremely good at supervising building work. Nothing escaped those beady eyes.

She was also quite good at weeding and pest control.
Spiders?
Snails?
Caterpillars?
Lovely.

She laid a cute brown egg every other day and was rightly proud of each one.

There were a few scares, during her time with us. She disappeared and after the second night out, with freezing temperatures, we thought something had taken her as she went for her daily wander around the village.
I even offered a few prayers to Saint Antonio, the local saint, who always finds everything (he was very useful when one of us lost a passport).

I went downstairs to light the fire and there she was…in the yard, waiting outside the kitchen door. She ate for over an hour and then made her way upstairs to do a bit of sunbathing.

The courtyard door wasn’t locked as my other half had taken our daughter to the airport. I’m just guessing, but someone must have spotted her lurking outside and let her in.
I asked her where she’d been and just what she thought she was doing, but she only gave her standard response…’buk buk’. Ah well.

I still think Saint Antonio sent her home and for that we are thankful.
There’s a sad little postscript to this. Not long after her disappearence, I opened her bedroom door and there was a sad, half eaten corpse. She hadn’t known a thing about what happened as the (most likely culprit) mink had eaten her where she slept. We miss her still.

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