The major event this Easter has been the return of Chickens to the estate. After a few site meetings Jim had delivered the posts and wire and between us we had dug three-quarters of the way around the area to be able to dig the fence in. The gate was a slight issue as we needed to make one, so Jim and I suggested to the OM that he might like to dust off his old woodworking skills and throw one together. He demurred although he did have what Jim and I both agreed was a good idea to hang the non-existent door from the end of the cow stall instead of securing a square post. TOM decided to advise me on the size of drill bits, wood and other practical matters to aid me in my task. “They are in the top shed” he told me. Such instructions of little use. He might as well have said they were on Mars. I would have had more chance of locating them in outer space than in the heaps of old tools, wood and machinery in his shed.
“Do you think you can find them for me?” I asked. He decided he could – and duly did – thus saving me a frustrating search and giving him another thirty yards of exercise. A win-win, by my reckoning.
So by the Friday afternoon we had a wall plate and three trenches dug when Jim arrived for the main construction session. Jim and I work well together. He has the experience and the right sanguine attitude towards the OM who pays him for his labour, and I am happy to agree with whatever Jim says and to offer what muscle I can muster.
It started reasonably well with the acquisition of tools: metal spike and sledgehammer to the fore. The OM was keen to tell us that the sledgehammer had been acquired from Yeovilton Air Base in 1962/3 when he was clearing the runway of ice (my first winter was a hard one I am told). A legendary piece of equipment which promptly broke as we hammered in the first post. We resumed 10 minutes later with Jim’s tools and cracked on with the job in hand. Incredibly we managed to get posts and netting up and a strand of supporting wire too. With only two lengths of wire to go, Jim left me to sort it the next morning but with a warning that it would be a two person job as the wire could get “twisted as fuck” if you did not feed it out carefully. I took this as a serious piece of advice. Jim does not often use strong language in my experience.
It only took an hour or two with Verity the next morning to make the run secure. Which was just as well, as I had arranged to collect the hens that afternoon. This is the third time that we have sourced chickens from Dorset Hens and they never fail to deliver. They have a great range of hybrids of various hues, and although after a busy Easter there was not a great choice, we took an eclectic foursome of a Mottled Leghorn, an Amber Star, a Bova Nera and a Colombian Blacktail. They were in a crate waiting for us when we arrived and the owner grabbed them two at a time to put them in the back of our car (in the dog crate). As she took the Leghorn she muttered a warning under her breath that this was “a little bastard”. Or at least that was what I thought I heard. She actually said “this is the fastest”. Ok – got ya.
VB and I returned with our clucking cargo and started to unload them. When the OM came up the yard I assumed it was to take a look at the new arrivals, but it turned out the more pressing matter for him was to print off a boarding pass for his impending flight to Newcastle – in three weeks’ time. I politely suggested I would take a look later. For the moment I wanted to get my hens settled in….
And so the hens are in. And they have not hung about, with one already laying (three in total so far) and we have also managed to discourage either dog from getting too interested in the chickens too. If Ella gets the wrong side of the fence, it will be carnage. The last time we had hens she was only a puppy but managed to get into the old run, to which I was alerted when I heard one hen shouting “f-koff!, f-koff!” Ella had the bird in her mouth, but fortunately did not deliver the coup de gras on that occasion. I don’t think she would be quite so gentle now…