500 Year Vision

Take pleasure from walking lightly on this Earth

And in Chicken news…

August14

Eggs are a wonderful food – how I miss them.  In our part of the world free range eggs are not sold in supermarkets, so unless you know someone with hens, or keep them yourself, you will be eating the eggs of living creatures which have been kept in a small cage under artificial lighting for their entire short life – torture rather than simple murder.  We have four chickens which came from such a factory, and they arrived in such a sorry state – anaemic looking and with few feathers – I committed to not supporting that industry any longer.  However- now we are a household of ten, with just three hens laying at the moment.  Just enough with which to make pasta and the odd brioche, but ommellete or an eggy breakfast are are a rare treat.

Last year was different – we had four rescued generic brown hens and four Partridge coloured Leghorns. They were terribly flighty and aloof so we called them collectively “The Models” who had mistakenly come to live on a common farm, in inappropriate footwear and the latest fashion in featherage.  They did, however, lay.  With plenty of eggs we could make delicious treats such as chocolate mousse, hollandaise sauce and entirely eggy breakfasts.   Though attractive, they were not as canny as the common hens, and so when a hawk struck – it was these creatures who were the victims, likewise when a fox visited.  The remaining model – Martha – decamped when next door got a rooster and has not been back since. And now, one of the remaining four has gone broody, so no more eggs from her for a while.

This spring we began experimenting with an incubator. With no broody breeds, this was our only option.  Hakin was our first success –  A La Fleche* (devil chicken) –  the only one to hatch from the batch. As a result she bonded with me, as her clan. A lone chick does not have a great survival rate, so she was somewhat molly-coddled and would make a distress call if I went out of the room.  She was happy in the house and would sometimes sit with us on the sofa in the lounge.  The adult hens were unwelcoming – Edna even cornered her and pulled feathers out.

We tried again with the incubator, but the second batch of eggs was lost for weeks in the post, and broken air pockets meant that they didn’t hatch, and a third time, when Mike picked up some eggs when he went by plane to the UK – but yet again they arrived damaged – they’d been put in the hold and only one hatched. We had some success with locally bought Auracana eggs – though only two of those made it. The best were some we bought at the farmers market in Prague. From these we have six mystery chickens – we’ve no idea what type, but they have beautiful colouring.   Hakin was recruited to become the teenage foster mum,  and was perfectly behaved with the babies. These are now her clan.  She has stopped following me around the garden and now will sit close to where her babies are located instead. I’m glad she is no longer a loner.

While in the UK I visited my grandfather in Cornwall. The journey took us within a few miles of South Yeo Farm – where we’d been ordering our purebreed hatching eggs. I decided to visit and ended up buying a few more Lavender Araucana hatching eggs to see if they would fare better travelling across Europe by road.  By happy chance we arrived home to find that one of the red hens had gone broody, so now she’s sitting on a mound of the blue-green Araucana eggs.  I don’t have high hopes for the hatching rate as the eggs are now at least two weeks old and did not travel in optimum conditions, but it would be lovely to have chicks with a real mother hen.

* We visited the town of La Fleche in France last week, partly  in search of more hatching eggs. In the tourist office there were t-shirts and tea towels decorated with La Fleche chickens, but disappointingly they said that this breed is no longer farmed in the area from which  it originates.

 

 

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