Our farm kitchen was used to being an unscheduled stopping place for non-paying guests. These varied from an injured feral kitten, a stray, wet collie dog whom we christened Sam, but subsequently found out was Toby. He was no longer wanted by his owners who were moving house and had just turned him out to fend for himself. I make no mention here about we English supposedly being animal lovers! Toby showed no fear or favour and was inclined to bite first and ask questions afterwards unless restrained by me. Toby lived with me for years and was a devoted and grateful friend and an excellent guard dog. Sadly missed.
Then came a series of sick battery chickens (warren hen variety) – most of which recovered. Then on to our largest visitor, a young Aberdeen Angus calf needing medication to - perhaps the most unusual of all – a perfectly well and healthy Rhode Island Red hen who decided she liked the warmth of the boiler cupboard that stood in the corner of the kitchen.
Life was extremely busy at this time and I did not pay a lot of attention to her as she wandered back and forth in and out of the kitchen door each day. She was happy and I was not bothered until - one day after she had gone to join her fellow hens for her meal when I looked into the boiler cupboard and saw five beautiful brown eggs. Oh my goodness – I realised what had been going on. For some unknown reason mother RIR hen had spurned the nesting boxes in the hen house and thought our accommodation was more suitable for her to raise her future family.
Having got this far I knew I could not move the eggs because there was a high possibility of mother RIR rejecting the eggs. There was nothing I could do except await the future births. My mistake was obviously to her advantage.
I was not to be disappointed. In a few days time the mother hen emerged to be followed by five beautiful golden chicks.
This, I decided, must be eviction day!
I seized my opportunity and found a small cardboard box. With a good quantity of fresh hay inside the chicks were scooped up and settled down in the box. Then with mother hen following we made slow progress over to the hen house with me constantly reassuring her by showing her the contents of the cardboard box every few steps. I left mother and box complete with chicks in the hen house.
My duty was done (thank goodness) and now it was up to her. She went on to successfully raise all five chicks and fortune smiled upon me as they were all hens.
When I look back some of these mini events in the history of my farm kitchen I ask myself – Why Me? Then I think – what a stupid question!