We are about to get some new hens. The youngest of our hens is four years old and some of them are as old as ten. Goldie, my favourite, I bred myself at least ten years ago. She is not the farmer's favourite.
Here on a farm everything has to earn its keep and to the farmer Goldie certainly doesn't do that. She tends to lay four or five eggs (which he gathers in every day) and then choose a nest where three or four eggs are awaiting collection and sit on those, with the idea of hatching them. I hear a loud squawking and know that he has discovered Goldie covering a few eggs and has thrown her off with suitable curses.
Once she disappeared for three weeks and he expressed a wish that she never return and that perhaps a fox had got her (oh yes, he can be pretty hard hearted where non-earners are concerned). Then one lunchtime he called me out into the yard and there she was, clucking in a motherly fashion, with one sturdy chick in her wake. And it turned out to be a cockerel! The farmer searched the hedge bottom and found Goldie's nest site where there were thirteen unhatched eggs and one broken eggshell.
Our hens are now all past their laying best. Our local hen producer advertises hens who lay all kinds of coloured eggs; we don't care what colour the shells are, we just want sturdy egg layers. So we have feelers out and friend S is also on the lookout - so watch this space. I have actually had to buy six eggs today and then when I use them, although they are advertised as 'free range' I find their yolks to be a pale yellow. Our hens lay eggs with golden yolks because they roam the fields and eat the grass. And the taste is far superior.
In anticipation the farmer is, as I write, cleaning out the hen hut. I offered to help, or even do it myself. He said I would be more of a hindrance than a help and I would be best out of the way. I have made him promise 5 star accommodation rather than hostel - so we shall see.