Sunday, 25 October 2015

Farewell to a hen?

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.

21 comments:

Dawn McHugh said...

what a lovely age for a hen to live to so different to the commercial reared birds that are lucky if they make it to two years, I have a couple of old birds they still lay the odd egg, they must be about 7 years old now :-)

angryparsnip said...

What a sweet, sad and lovely post today.
I always love hearing about your chickens.

cheers, parsnip

John Gray said...

Perhaps its the time if year too...i lost two in two days

Joanne Noragon said...

The barn owl saga is interesting. I wonder if it was dominated by a bigger, older sibling.

A Heron's View said...

The thing to do with an excess of cockerels is to turn them all into capons which grow into fine tasty big table birds. Speak to the Farmer.

Wanda said...

Caponising is no longer legal in the UK. Thankfully.

Rachel said...

It is quite normal for the barn owls to concentrate on feeding only one chick. One strong one is better than two weaklings.

Simon Douglas Thompson said...

Sad to lose such an attractive sounding hen, many are the eggs she must have produced. And I agree about the Barn Own, a fitter sibling probably got the lion's share of food.

Frances said...

Reading this post rather late on Sunday evening, I want to send you my thanks again, Weaver, for all that you tell me about farming. I am so fortunate to have access to your posts and all the wisdom and reporting that I find here.

Best wishes to you and the Farmer and all others who live on your farm.

coffeeontheporchwithme said...

Sorry about your old hen. Even though they are not pets, we do come to know them and are fond of their unique personalities. We had a hen we called Martha who was quite old when she finally died, but we were most upset when we lost our rooster, Pepper. Thanks for sharing the story of the owl. I didn't know people put up owl boxes. -Jenn

Cro Magnon said...

My neighbour had this trouble with a cow. She was always trying to steal the calves of others, and became a real nuisance. She was very persistent and had to be separated.

thelma said...

She sounds a pretty hen, so it must be sad to see her go. Our owl was quite noisy last night, I suppose in the case of the young owl, it was survival of the fittest, or perhaps not enough food around...

The History Anorak said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bovey Belle said...

Your hen has lived to a grand old age and I trust she just went to sleep and never woke again. As for the owlet, survival of the fittest I guess. We have Tawnys on our land, and they are very vocal at night, calling to one another from trees across the paddock.

Poor old 55 - such a strong maternal urge, but to the detriment of those calves she tried to steal!

Heather said...

As you say, your hen had a good life. I never realised that cows could get 'broody' - poor old love, but I can see she might have been a nuisance. Such a shame about the young owl, but I suppose all wild creatures live a hazardous life.

Sue in Suffolk said...

There were owls twit- twooing all over the place last night, although we rarely see them.
Cockerels are too blinkin' noisy - another reason not to have one!

The Weaver of Grass said...

Interesting to read Heron's comment and Wanda's reply. I do remember capons, which were really large, fat 'cockerels' - we usually had one when there was a special occasion. But as Wanda says - it has been illegal in the UK for some years now.
Some interesting comments here - thanks so much for joining in. It is rather like all sitting round chatting about things isn't it. Well 'virtually' anyway.

Hildred said...

I am not looking forward to Halloween evening when our clocks go back, and it will be dark so early. About your 'Aunty' cow, - there was always a sheep who was the same way about other ewes lambs, - always wanted to be in on the act. Sorry about your sweet hen....and about the poor young owl.

Weekend-Windup said...

Feel sad to hear about the lovable hen...

The Weaver of Grass said...

Yes, as we predicted, she died overnight. The farmer always puts any dead hens out for the foxes to take. They are already well into mating calls (I did read somewhere at the weekend that it is possible to imitate the wow-wow-wow mating call of the fox and get him calling back to you. (don't think I will try this). This recycling of dead animals is a better way than just burying them. If she has not gone in a day or two then he will bury her, but if she can be food for some other animal then so much the better.

meigan cameron said...

Very nice article.
Thanks for sharing this with us.