( from 24th march)
Finally last night after my teaching session I went to Serge’s to get his hen. I had brought him a cardboard box on my way into town and we did the deed quickly like thieves: I didn’t want to be stopped on my way home by the cops checking curfew passes.
I could imagine his face after he checked my pass and said: you’re teaching stops at 21:30 madam, and it’s now 23:00..? Well you need to understand officer; I had to get this old hen that needs friends and a bit of country air….yeah?
I had been stopped twice before and the 2nd time it was at the roundabout opposite the Caussade Prefecture and when they gestured me to pull in, I burst my right front tire on the high pavement. Bugger.
So I went home avoiding the centre of Montauban and using the back way from Caussade. When I got home Geoff was waiting with a head light for me and Serge’s hen joined the other 4 little ones in the pen from the market this morning.
I loved them straight away those 4 little hens: they were so cute! They looked a bit surprise but not really scared when I introduced them to their pen. Once they’d seen the water and the seeds they went about to inspect their space very thoroughly, up and down and down and up….as if checking no-one was hiding…without bothering about me observing them. And then from time to time, with one eye looking at me and the head tilted sideways they looked surprised: Are you still here? They seemed to be saying.
The little door of their pen stayed open all day but they never went out on that first day. I could hear them chatting when I went down to check on them. They seemed happy enough together making each other’s acquaintance without any need to venture outside. From time to time one would poke her beak out ( photo above) and seemed to seriously be thinking on whether or not to come out but then opted out and went back in…And it was such a gorgeous day with plenty of sun!
This morning when I opened the inside door, the one I’ll use to clean and collect the eggs, all was quiet in there and I thought: great! It worked! But still no-one in there looked as if they were ready and set to go out. So at lunchtime I thought of helping them a bit and hop! I pushed them out. I had taken the seeds out thinking that would be an incentive to come down but not at all. I can’t imagine what they were waiting for. Come on girls! Let’s go out.
Once on the ground it took them no time at all to start exploring their yard, as they did with their indoor space yesterday and once they found the sand pit right under the coop that was it. They spent most of their day in there grooming themselves and each other, concentrating on their bum’s feathers that couldn’t be done without each other’s help. And the grooming went on and on! Then as if they suddenly remembered they should eat, they rushed out to peck at a few seeds and went straight back in the sand pit for more grooming
And soon it was easy to see that Serge’s hen wasn’t nice at all. She would peck at the little ones on the head or get hold of them by the back of the neck and push them down which looked so painful with the little ones screaming. By the end of the day they had learned to avoid her and stay well out of her way.
Ok, so 2 things here: she was establishing her position as a matriarch and all of that intimidating behaviour was normal and would not last more than a couple of days or she was a bit of a nasty one having lived most of her life alone.
Geoff and I kept observing them all day to try to make up our mind and decide on what to do. I was disappointed: I so wanted to give Serge’s hen a nice bunch of friends for her remaining time alive but what I was witnessing didn’t please me at all. The little ones were so nice to each other and that one was just a bully.
In the evening, they didn’t climb back up to the coop to roost so I grabbed them one by one and dropped them in. It was clear they weren’t going to do it by themselves. But I left Serge’s hen in the compound for the night. I could not bear the thought of the little ones being bullied all night with no escape. If they need a queen they’ll have to choose one amongst themselves. Serge’s one is going home tomorrow.
What a day!
Oh and I nearly forgot! When I went down in the afternoon, on one of my many visits, I had put my hand in the nesting boxes, just in case, you never know…..and there it was: a tiny egg.