A few weeks ago, I said something awful had happened and I didn’t want to talk about it, though my Facebook contacts knew, as I’d said there – not wanting to dwell on it, the bad news was that foxes (I strongly suspect a pair) had got into the hen house in the night and had killed all the chickens except one shocked survivor, who must have sat on a high perch and seen all that happened. Eleven had been taken and two bodies remained.
After a long period of reinforcing every inch of the house and run – I’ve even been up on the roof adding extra wire, though there’s no possibility of a fox getting in there – we were ready to restock. We’d been too devastated to decide, at first, but we missed them and I was glad when LT said he’d like to have chickens again. Friends have been hugely kind in offering replacements , though some of them are too far away unless they’re sent by courier, but my blog friend Compostwoman lives in Herefordshire which, I discovered, is not that far out of the way for our return journey. She had a few Seramas that she could spare. Serama bantams are the smallest breed of hen and I was quite intrigued.
We loaded Rose’s cat carrier into the car and duly set off for Compostwoman’s house. I rather wanted to take the Heads of the Valleys road as it sounded lovely, and my Apple Maps app was helpful there – another blog post is coming along soon, about the pros and cons of our various satnav systems. I don’t think there is a perfect one, though it may just be that we don’t have it. The main disadvantage with all of them, as far as I know, is that they don’t help if you have a house name rather than a number. We arrived at the village and her postcode seemed to cover a wide area. And a number of the houses didn’t have their names on the gate. We got there in the end, though (hers did) and she happened to be in the drive talking to another caller – we recognised each other, of course.
Meeting blog friends is one of life’s joys, I’ve found over the last decade or so, and it was certainly a great pleasure to find that C is just as delightful and interesting as I’d expected. And after a leisurely cup of tea and a chat, we went out into the garden to be introduced to the chickens. The Seramas are, indeed, cute and all quite different in shape and colouration, and even in size, though they’re all small. She showed us some of the eggs, which are tiny – they average around 30 grams, about an ounce, which is half the size of a standard hen’s egg and about two thirds the size of a regular bantam egg. They’re very rich, she said, with the proportion of yolk to white much higher than most eggs. So I won’t be using them for meringues.
As ever, catching the ones we wanted was a bit of a challenge. One little black girl, known as Jet, was easy, but the next wasn’t. There was one particular hand-reared chicken that C wanted to keep, and one of the two cocks, so of course they were the ones that came nearest every time. The one we have, Yvette got out and made the mistake of going into another hen run, where she was fairly easily caught. And we loaded them up and bore them back to Reading. They ate and drank and seemed pretty relaxed, so we left them in the lobby by the kitchen overnight – we maybe should have thought to shut the kitchen door. Crow the cock has a piercing, falsetto, one-man dawn chorus and I can’t altogether pretend to have appreciated it.
They have settled in well to their coop in the greenhouse run, where they will stay for a few more days. One of them has already laid an egg, so that’s all right. It’s very small, only 22 grams, so I think it must be the black one’s. C also gave us some eggs, which I have set under Rose’s broody bantam Canasta and we hope she will continue to sit. I also hope, once my remaining hen has settled in with her new husband, to have some chicks from her. The churchyard chickens have lived with us for many years, at least 28, and I’d be very sorry if the strain were lost altogether. Rose’s three could also have their eggs hatched, but not with her cock as the father as they’re too closely related. It would be a bit complicated – we’d have to take them away and put Crow in with them for a few weeks, leaving her cock disconsolate – so we’ll give my chicken a chance first. I may also have a couple of young birds from another friend – mind you, I don’t want to end up with more than a dozen or so, so I must not get carried away with enthusiasm.
We’re still quite devastated at the loss of our poor lovely little chickens and I’m still very nervous about it happening again; though we really have done everything we can to double-reinforce all the defences. And it’s lovely to hear them crooning to themselves as you walk past. There may well be a dish of tiny eggs on the table at the blog party.