|Ashes the hen outside the holiday cottage|
Chicks reach 'point of lay' after so many weeks and I was expecting some egg laying action from these youngsters anytime after November, but probably more like now. One of the ways to tell if a hen is about to lay eggs is to check the fullness of its crown. Recently these plump birds have been filling out in the crown department and as the other hens begin to lay in earnest I thought it was time these ladies joined in.
Yesterday my elderly neighbour and her grand-daughter joined us for lunch prior to our visit to nearby Blackbrook Zoo (only 99p entry right now so those looking for last minute self-catering ideas please take note that it's all go around here even when Alton Towers is closed). My neighbour catches sight of our hens lazily looking for pickings beneath the bird table outside our french windows and casually asks me when we took ownership of a different cockerel. No such thing had happened I reply assuredly, we were retaining Stewart despite his unhealthy intimacy with his sisters. And no, those young birds are Phoenix and Flash, last year's chicks and no, they are most definitely hen birds. How do you know? I just know!
You can see where this is going by now, I bet. That same afternoon I heard a strange croaky sort of cock-a-doodle-do and sent my son to the window to investigate. How much proof does a person need to make her change a firmly held perception? This was not the voice of Stewart; I had accepted that immediately, but when I am told that Phoenix is crowing I needed to check. Suddenly the fullness of the crown and size of the birds couldn't be justified away as an aspect of this breed. The recent spat between Phoenix and Flash couldn't be explained away as establishing a sisterly pecking order. These adolescent birds have reached a level of maturity this week, but I hadn't really seen what was taking place in front of me because I had convinced myself way back that they were hen birds.
So I guess that we have 'chicken' on the menu soon. Stewart was so called because, as our explanation goes, he is nicknamed 'Stew, because he soon will be'. But a year has gone by and he has reverted to his full name, Stewart, because nobody in our household wants to stew such a fine creature, of whom we have become so fond. Phoenix and Flash, however have a more certain fate. Phoenix, it turns out, will not rise from the flames and Flash is now thought of as 'Flash in the pan'.
Meanwhile I wish I hadn't refuted my neighbour's assertion quite so confidently. There is no getting around the fact that I now have egg on my face over such an elementary poulty-keeping cock up.