Today has been an eventful day. Actually Thursday was an eventful day but with my sister coming home for the 2nd weekend in a row (nothing to do with a rather handsome young man on the island at the moment I’m sure!) and Sally staging a no-sleep campaign I haven’t had the time to blog. This is particularly frustrating as so much has happened that I’ve wanted to write about. Life here is currently so exciting I could probably take up blogging full-time. Also my sister helpfully told me she had lots of ideas for my blog too – I suggested maybe she should write her own.
Anyway fat Tracey’s tale begins a few days before Christmas. Allan suddenly started spending even more time than usual in my Dads shed. It’s not unusual for Allan to spend several hours per day in the aforementioned shed. The shed to Allan is like Harvey Nichols for me – it is filled with a heady combination of wood, tools, animal fodder, my dads quad and various items from my childhood. My dad is often there too imparting manly wisdom whether Allan wants to hear it or not!
I wasn’t particularly amused by Allan’s disappearance shedward. He informed me lovingly that he was creating an amazing Christmas present for me – I was unmoved. Neither child was sleeping, we were well into the winter of discontent (by this I mean it had been raining for several months) and I had broken out in a strange urticarial rash all over my entire body (possibly brought on by excess food colouring in the Christmas cake). I’m fairly insightful and from the various clues I was given I knew immediately that my present was going to be a pig. Don’t get me wrong. I like pigs. Allan and I had discussed getting a pig and I did want one…….but I was tired and it was wet and the pigs would have had to live outside and at that precise moment I just wasn’t sure I was up to pig husbandry.
Christmas day dawned wet and cold with Max and Tiggy almost eating a sheep and my Dad having to throw himself into the sea in order to save it. We worked our way through mountains of presents and a lot of food and drink. I did my best to avoid Allan’s hints that I should join him in the shed. Eventually I couldn’t put it off any longer. As I squelched towards the shed I practised my fake smile behinds Allan’s back. Imagine my joy when we entered the shed and there was not a pig in sight. In fact the only livestock were Max and Spud. I was actually able to show genuine enthusiasm when Allan presented me with my gift – the biggest henhouse you’ve ever seen. Not only were its dimensions impressive but it featured a removable floor and a full size window (harvested from the shed of course). The three-week old chicks were arriving by plane a few days later.
Sadly my euphoria was not to last. Hen enthusiasts amongst you will have realised that I have alluded to the inclement weather on more than one occasion. Three week old chicks don’t have feathers and no matter how salubrious their henhouse it won’t be warm enough. Somehow Allan managed to break the news to me that for the next 8 weeks we would be sharing our home with the furry bundles. This was particularly hard for me as I am actually scared of poultry. Yes really. Chickens are scary scary creatures with their pecky beaks and their scratchy claws, they are not to be trusted and you certainly don’t want to be sharing living space with them. Phobia of hens is not as rare as you might think. In fact I believe it may be inherited in an autosomal dominant fashion as my father is scared of them too – it must be genetic. To make matters worse when the hens finally arrived and were safely ensconced next to the Rayburn it became clear that they were not the little yellow fluffy bundles I was hoping for. Instead they looked a bit like the velociraptors in Jurassic park except with feathers and (thankfully) less intelligence.
I won’t lie to you dear reader. The next few weeks were hard. The hens were not pleasant living companions. They were smelly and noisy and after a couple of days learned to fire their faeces out of the side of their cage – torpedo like- onto the kitchen floor. Their only positive was that they required such high temperatures that kitchen was permanently warm for the first time since we moved in. We were even allowed to put coal on the Rayburn!
There’s a Julia Donaldson book called A Squash and a Squeeze.
I won’t spoil the story for you but it basically describes an old woman who is displeased with her living space and choses to share it with various animals in order to rediscover its joys. Well I can completely empathise with said woman. When the time came to kick the hens out (and I may have aimed a few kicks when Allan wasn’t looking) I was delighted to have my kitchen back. It was amazing to walk in the front door and only smell dog rather than the mixed scent of dog and chicken poop.
Since the hens have been outside I have become a lot fonder of them. Even my Dad rather likes them as long as he’s not expected to enter the pen. I quite like their homely clucking sounds and I enjoy saving all of our leftovers for them. Sally is currently being weaned so there really are a lot of leftovers at the moment although the hens don’t care for broccoli or kiwi fruit! My mum in particular has a real soft spot for them. whilst we were on holiday she took to making them porridge every morning despite the fact that neither she, nor my father eat it. I understand that for the first few days she was actually buying milk especially for the hens!
After three months I decided we ought to get around to naming them and so they were christened Stacey, Lacey, Casey and Fat Tracey! I think perhaps they were waiting for this, perhaps they didn’t feel whole without a name. Shortly after I named the hens Helen and I were rewarded by the gift of our first egg! We were so excited. Helen lifted it out of the hay with a reverent air and carried it into the house. The children next door were invited round to view it and it has been photographed from various angles. Sadly I can’t include the photo in this blog as my camera is in the bedroom with Sally but I’ll add them in tomorrow so check back then egg fans! Fat Tracey (we’re pretty sure it’s her) has gone on to produce a further two eggs and hopefully the others won’t be far behind. We enjoyed them for lunch with some home-grown cress – the smugness was overwhelming although admittedly between seven of us there wasn’t much to go round – they do lay very small eggs at first!
I may almost be ready for a pig now!
Fat Tracey's egg with one from Auntie Kate's grown up hen.