Just a little extract from my diary….
April 23rd 2012
Easter, the perfect time for egg collecting, has brought new life. Children, perfect and unsullied, living in the now, have unknowingly brought uproar to the garden. Eggs collected in wide eyed innocence have transformed our lives.
Childhood is a wonderful time. Let these remarkable minds infiltrate ours and we will live forever in days filled with excitement and discovery, unfettered by the drudgery of familiarity that surely breeds contempt.
Our eggs were gathered from a hen house, perfectly suited to the cottage garden where we found ourselves one late afternoon. Our wild, unruly children, high on fresh country air, were encouraged to hunt in the hen house and gather what eggs they could find. As eager hands gathered eggs, a colourful array of feathery chickens clucked melodiously and Lucky the rooster crowed majestically. As day turned to dusk we said our goodbyes thanking our friends for the eggs, a gift intended for Easter morning. But these glorious futures never made it to the breakfast table.
Lucky the rooster was a handsome devil and very aptly named. He spent the first couple of days of his life, as an egg, in a fridge. He was saved from becoming a cooked breakfast when a hen turned broody and a clutch of eggs were returned to the nesting boxes. Three weeks later Lucky hatched. The children had overheard this story being told and realised that, if there is a chance in life, however small, they should take it. And those eggs, lovingly gathered were their chance. Lucky had made his presence known in more ways than one and there was no way, absolutely no way, these children were going to eat these eggs if there was a chance they would hatch. No way.
Often a serendipitous moment will occur causing an unforeseen chain of events to happen. The next day a friend, who keeps chickens, mentioned she had a broody hen and was thinking of getting some fertile eggs to hatch. Three eager, desperate, pleading pairs of eyes gazed up at me. I got the eggs.
Sally, a large, disgruntled, matronly looking hen was ushered out of her nesting box and we carefully placed five, perfect eggs in the warm straw. Hearts filled with hope and trepidation we crept anxiously away. Our surrogate mother seemed unperturbed by the sudden, new arrivals and settled herself down to do what nature had burdened her to do, incubate. For hours on end she would sit and turn, sit and turn those eggs, appearing only briefly to scratch at her food before fluffing her feathers and returning to the nest. Daily we would visit, willing her to do a good job, our hopes and dreams as fragile as those shells. The stark fragility of lifehit home one afternoon when Sally appeared anxious and disturbed. A shattered egg, the cause of her distress lay dripping in the nest. Dismayed by her clumsy footed ways she refused to sit, for several, long hours until instinct, once again, kicked in.
And so it was that three weeks later one violently chirpy chick broke the mould and emerged, wet and disgruntled, into our lives. Gregarious and bolshie, almost sucking the life from its surrogate, it staggered forth to capture our hearts.
We named our little bundle Omelette, a simple reminder of what could, and should have been.
The other eggs showed no signs of hatching. With little hope we carefully peeled off the shells only to discover three lifeless, deformed chicks. A genetic disorder could be to blame but more likely poor incubation. Whatever the case, our little chick, just like its father, is lucky to be alive.
We visit our chick daily, watching it grow. It sits on our hands and chirps defiantly. Soft, downy feathers gradually change from yellow to white. My friend goes away and I am solely responsible for her chickens and mine. Every evening, as dusk falls, I hurry down the lane to put the chickens to bed. Then, one night, I am later than usual. As I reach out to open the garden gate a fox tears through the hedge, eyes glittering in the moonlight. Terrified I stifle a scream. My heart is pounding and my wide eyes struggle to focus in the darkness, afraid of the carnage that surely confronts me. I see Omelettes little coop in front of me and I can see straight through it. That can only mean one thing. The end of the run where the nest box lies, my chicken’s place of safety, has been opened, pulled apart by the scrabbling’s of a sly, hungry fox. I feel sick, my knees buckle and I realise I am crying, I have utterly failed these defenceless creatures and my heart is breaking.
As I sink to the ground a slight movement catches my eye and I turn and look, and there, at the very end of the run is a hen, a very angry looking hen, and peeping out of her feathery breast is Omelette, chirping softly.