Our search for waifs & strays!
Our home for waifs and strays began with just two hens, Hilda and Henrietta. Unlike all the other hens that we would soon rescue from a battery farm, they were picked out from hundreds of other hens at an auction.
It was held in a large barn in the country and my kind and unassuming husband and I had no experience at all of how it worked. The outcome was expensive but we still laugh about it.
The enormous barn was stacked with cages three high in places and filled with every kind of poultry imaginable (to myself) plus an amazing amount of rabbits, guinea pigs and farming equipment.
The noise and the smell were breathtaking....in more ways than one.
Well, we chose our girls, two beautiful buff Orpington’s and waited for the bidding to start.
My heart was racing and I could hardly control my excitement. I remember asking a young farmer if he thought I had made the right choice and he readily agreed. ‘Great layers,’ he said smiling. So I felt satisfied with my decision.
Then it started. The barn was swarming with people and I was totally unprepared for the buzz that swept through the building taking me with it. It also took my kind and unassuming husband for he was nowhere to be seen.
It was soon time to bid for the hens though I still couldn’t fathom out how it worked. For a start, the auctioneer was talking so fast (a load of mumble jumble) I couldn’t understand a word he was saying. So, I kept putting up my hand. I was determined to take those hens home. Then the man put up his hand and stopping the auction, he looked at me with a sort of smirk on his face.
‘Are you with the gentleman over there?’ he asked and everyone stared in my direction. I stretched up and looked at the man in question. It was indeed my missing but kind and unassuming husband. I nodded happily and waved to him.
‘Thought so,’ said the auctioneer rolling his eyes, ‘lucky for you, you just out bid him and yourself, so the Buff’s are yours. Number please!’
So not only did I pay way over the top for the hens, whilst bidding against my dear and unassuming husband, I actually bid against myself. It seemed as if everyone, including my cross but still dear and unassuming husband, watched as I handed over my number to the auctioneer who smiled and winked at me. I just wanted the ground to swallow me up!
Anyway, it didn’t end there. Far from it!
With our new girls settled in a place that would soon become our home for waifs and strays, we waited eagerly for lovely fresh eggs we were told would arrive. But we waited and waited and waited. They seemed to make strange noises as if they were trying to force an egg out but nothing. So I decided to follow the instructions in my new ‘how to keep hens’ guide book.
It went something like this.....
"Place your hen under your arm like a rugby ball. Bottom should be facing upwards, at you."
"Inspect vent to see if an egg is visible and if so try and release it without breaking the shell."
Well I did as the book said but there was no sign of an egg.
"Put on rubber glove and lubricate a finger with vaseline."
Ugh! I know I'm a nurse, but I didn't relish this investigation.
"There may be a lot of trapped wind so don’t look directly at the vent."
This last piece of advice sent me right to the second option.....
"Hold hen like a rugby ball over a bowl of hot water. Bottoms should be held over the steam."
This I did, one at a time, being careful not to burn their delicate bodies.
Hold this position for a good few minutes for their muscles to relax so the egg (if there is an egg) could easily pass through the vent.
So I put the traumatised girls back in their run with lots of treats and decided to let nature take its course....which, to my utter surprise, it did!
No, there was no egg. There never would be. You see, we had a visitor later that day who kindly informed me that Hilda and Henrietta were cockerels...that explained everything!
So poor Hilda became Harry and Henrietta became Henry...and they lived happily ever after! I hope they have forgiven me.