My oldest hen, Goldie, has died today. She was reared from an egg here on the farm by an old hen who managed to lay away and bring home a clutch of babies from the hedge bottom somewhere in the fields.
She was always my favourite. Born in the days when I kept a few 'fancy' hens, she was the most beautiful golden colour and always very tame. In her time she has brought off several broods herself, copying her mum's habit of nipping off to lay a clutch of eggs off the farm and then returning with a few chicks. And once, a few years ago the farmer accidentally ran over a hen pheasant sitting on a clutch of eggs in a hay field. Sadly he killed the pheasant and crushed a few of the eggs but he brought home seven or eight eggs in his cap. At the time Goldie was broody, so we put them under her. She reared the lot and was a really good mum. One night a stoat or a weasel broke into her hut and stole one half grown pheasant, so the next day we let them all go. They used to roost in the greenhouse at night for a few weeks, then they disappeared into the wild and Goldie returned to what she did best - hanging around under the bird table for any stray sunflower hearts which might fall her way.
The farmer has gone shooting today, but before he went he put Goldie out in the field for the fox. Like any other wild creature the foxes will go hungry a lot of the time in this cold spell - so after evading the fox for the whole of her ten years, hopefully she will provide a tasty meal for a fox family tonight.
Goodbye Goldie - I shall miss seeing you around.