The first of April was a very special day. Not only did it mark publication of the final book in my Austen Addicts Trilogy in the US – Mr Darcy Forever – but we had some new additions to the family.
It was time to get some more hens! The British Hen Welfare Trust was organising a release day of factory hens and our local collection point was at Baylham House Rare Breeds Farm. The sun was shining and there were blue skies and pink blossom everywhere.
Whilst we were waiting for the hens to arrive (all the way from Coventy) we met a few of the wonderful rare breed animals at the farm. Here’s Wilma. Is it my imagination or does she also want to come home with us?
And I got to cuddle a five-day old lamb! Now this was one I really did want to bring home with me!
Then the serious business of the day began. There were over 200 hens to be rehomed and we were all ready to collect our three.
And here they are!
They soon settled down in the car for their journey home just like our others did over a year ago.
And here’s a very jubilant hen-keeper settling them in at home!
Welcome to Mulberry Cottage Mariette, Primrose and Florence (Little Flo) – named after HE Bates characters from my favourite book, The Darling Buds of May.
Here’s Mariette – she has a huge, pale floppy comb.
Here’s Primrose – she can walk down the ladder to the run but can’t yet go up it, bless her.
And here’s Little Flo who is very shy and barely has any feathers on her neck – yet!
These hens are the first to be released from the new ‘enriched’ factory cages but it’s obvious that these are still far from ideal places to keep hens. They might have a little more room than the previous ‘battery’ cages but feather-pecking still goes on out of sheer boredom and aggravation and the birds have no opportunity to go outside and just be hens. Just look at this tail – it’s got to be the scruffiest thing ever to be seen on a chicken!
I’m so looking forward to getting to know these little personalities and seeing them bloom back to health. My old girls are keen to know them although there have been a few disputes. But we’re keeping them separated for a couple of weeks whilst the new girls settle.
Here’s Minnie sizing up Little Flo.
And – no – Alice is not kissing Little Flo here!
It’s hard to believe that Alice looked like Little Flo a year ago but I’m sure the new girls will soon recover themselves and their feathers will grow and their pale skins will colour up beautifully – just as Dotty, Alice and Minnie’s did. Indeed, by the end of their first full day with us Little Flo had taken food from a bowl in my hand, Mariette had scratched in the grass for the first time and Primrose had laid her first egg! Clever girls!