Now this is another of those misleading titles…sort of.
Last year’s new set of hens, all seven of them haven’t been out much. They were new last year, unrelated to the other hens, as we replaced the old ones last year, after an eagle or two grabbed some.
The old lot were the gang of rampaging hoodies, who went around rooting up other people’s flower and vegetable beds.
This lot, under the eye of Maria’s cockerel – who hadn’t been free to do much and was referred to as ‘el capon’, a rather disparaging term, but I think it refers to his character, not fertility, have just started foraging.
They start campaigning to be let out at about midday. I open the back door and the moaning starts up –(remember, Terry Jones in drag?) ‘Oooh let us out, go on, we’ll be good, go on, you know you want to…etc’
They don’t range far, which is good news for us, as we can see what they are up to, but they haven’t quite worked out the easiest route back to the chicken house – or maybe they have…
Our vegetable patch is a rough square; divided into long, narrow beds, for permaculture (ie. cover the weeds and don’t dig). It is fenced in all around, to keep the hens and dogs out in summer.
The chicken pen runs the length of the top of the square, with black netting to stop them flying out. So far, it works well, although it does look a little like an aviary.
Their house looks over the garden and the path to it, runs around the garden from the bottom left corner to the top right corner, where the gate to their run is.
They can’t work out that in order to get home at roosting time, they must leave the garden and walk around. Instead they sit there, gazing at the door to their bedroom.
The cockerel has worked this out, along with one of the less agile hens, so they are waiting on the other side of the fence.
Now, if you try to catch one of the hens during the day, you won’t get close. They aren’t cooperative that way.
However in the evening they are glad to be thrown over the fence into their run.
Lately this procedure has gone through a few refinements. At bedtime, the best fliers flutter on to the fence posts and sit and wait to be tossed over the fence. There are four now, who can manage this feat. They all sit looking at their house, with the exception of the largest, which is looking in the opposite direction, towards the back door, for my husband, who is their God.
As soon as he reaches them, she turns around and waits to be launched. They used to go without a sound, but now they have developed a sort of ‘Yeeeehaaah’ squawk, as they flutter into the pen. They love it.
The cockerel has grown a great deal since he came to live with us. Two days ago, he saw off a ‘bicho’ (possibly a stoat or mink) that managed to prise off the chicken door. He was making an enormous racket at six am.
He’d chased away the intruder, got his girls to hide in the brambles and they were all alive and well. Cojones…he’s got them.