Our clocks have gone back for an hour, so it is dark in what yesterday seemed to be like fairly early afternoon. All the old hens were in when the farmer went down the fields with Tess on her afternoon walk but the new pullets, who have really found their feet now, were still out in the paddock in the semi dark scratching about. Now, when it is really quite dark, the farmer has just gone down to shut them in.
But when he came in the farmer informed me that we shall have one hen less by morning. One of my very old rare breed hens, a lovely blue /grey, has been getting slower over the last week and today she has not left the hen hut, staying quietly in the corner away from the others. She is probably about ten years old so I am content to know that she has had a happy and contented life and is fading out gradually.
The farmer also reminded me that she was the one who liked nothing better than to go broody, sit on eggs and rear a clutch of babies, which she would guard fiercely. (he won't let me have a cockerel now because so many of the chicks are themselves cockerels and it becomes hard to know what to do with them).
We were reminded of the days when we had dairy cows - pre Foot and Mouth Disease - and they all had a number freeze branded on their rumps. The one we knew best was number 55, who adored new born calves and would always be present at any birth out in the fields in the Summer. And after the birth she would do her level best to coax the new born away from its mother so that she could look after it. Many's the time we have had to chase her off so that the calf could get its mother's colostrum quickly.
So I shall be sad to say farewell to my hen - but at least she has had a good life.
On a different subject, we were out at friends last evening for a delicious meal (beef in beer). They also farm and have an owl box fitted in one of their barns. This year a barn owl pair raised two chicks which appeared to be doing well. Then one day they found one of the chicks, almost fully grown, on their farm lane looking lost and bewildered. A picked it up and took it back to the box (incidentally he says its talons clasped his fingers so tightly that he found it extremely hard to prise them off). Some days later he found it on the lane again - this time it was dead. He sent it away for analysis as to why it had died. Sadly they said it was emaciated and had literally died of starvation. And this in a year when barn owls seem to have done very well round here. So one wonders why.