Followers of my blog will know that I have been having terrible trouble integrating ex-battery hen Jess with the rest of the hens. She was a sad, outcast of the group of 6 ex-battery hens we adopted & had twice been injured by them. We had placed her in the sectioned off area of our little field with Seymour & Daisy the friendly Aylesbury ducks, so that the rest of the birds could see her every day but not get at her. On Friday night I decided to try again & stealthily snuck her into the main hen house under cover of dark. On Saturday morning when I let the birds out Norah, one of the other ex-batts immediately flew at her with beak & claws. But this time Jess actually stood up for herself & started to fight back! Agitated by the scuffle two more ex-batts joined in the fight! What a disaster I thought - I had never seen hens fight like this before! However, clever Jess lay down on the floor & quietly backed herself away. So the three, silly fighting hens were just fighting each other & had forgotten that Jess had been their intended target. Jess happily carried on her morning business of searching for tasty morsels! When the foolish three came to their senses they did look rather embarrassed & quickly set about preening their ruffled feathers! I'm happy to report that Jess spent the rest of the day without mishap. Hurray I thought - we've finally cracked it!
On Saturday evening youngest son & I rounded the ducks & geese up & shut all the houses tightly as we always do. We did a scout of the field for stray hens as we always do. I made a mental note to put the birds away a little earlier the next day as the evenings were drawing in quite fast. On Sunday morning I raced up to let the birds out a little later than normal as I had enjoyed a little lie in - BLISS! I looked out for Jess as I am particularly fond of her due to the close contact I have had with her through her stay in the back garden. She is a friendly little soul & quite happy to be picked up & cuddled (yes, I'm sure some of you are horrified at the thought of hugging a hen, but they are my little friends & definitley not destined for the table!). I said a cheery good morning to my girls as they emerged from the house. But no Jess. I opened the door, thinking she was maybe feeling a little overwhelmed at being in with so many others, but no Jess. I checked all around the field, no Jess. I checked the house again & the stable, no Jess. I started to feel a rising sense of panic. Where was my lovely girl? Had she not gone in with the rest of the hens the night before? Youngest son arrived, wondering why I was so long. Together we did a complete sweep of the field & all the houses, no Jess. Had she managed to get out of the field? I checked our neighbours garden (they are away at the moment), no Jess. I was starting to get a bit tearful by this point. There was nowhere else to look. Had I put my little hen in danger by not checking she was safely away? Had she been left out on her own at the mercy of Mr Fox? After everything she'd been through & recovered from, had I let her down when finally her future had looked rosy? I felt desperately sad, but could do no more but return home & break the sad news to hubby.
The day wore on & I went about my chores with a heavy heart. I couldn't bring myself to go up to the field all day, but come evening I knew I would have to as the hen house needed cleaning out. I managed to put it off until about 7pm but then had to just buck myself up & get on with the task in hand. I took up some chopped courgette as a treat & almost by way of an apology to the rest of the hens. As they were enjoying it something caught by eye over by the goat's woodpile. A flash of purple stained feathers, just like Jess had. I looked again. There was a hen that looked just like Jess pecking about in the wood. I looked again & this time my brain woke up. Oh my goodness - there was Jess, as large as life right in the middle of the field! I was astounded! I ran over to her, grabbed her up to my chest & hugged her hard. 'Jess, where have you been? Oh, I'm sooo glad you're back' I choked through my tears of joy. Poor Jess looked up at me with a most bemused look on her face. After a moment of just holding her & feeling her warm feathers against my skin I popped her down & tore down to the house, shouting 'She's back! Jess is back!' Well, hubby & the lads were as amazed as me & so happy at seeing my beaming face. Straight away eldest son & I went back up to the field to gently clip Jess's wings to prevent any further possible escape. We only wished that that we knew where she had been!
I spent quite a long time on Sunday evening just sat among my birds, feeling happy & at peace. I was about to pop back down to the house to grab a cup of tea before it was time to shut the birds away, when something caught my eye in the wood pile. Feathers? I looked again. Sure enough as I got closer there was a little brown feathered hen's bottom just visible between the logs. So that was where she'd got to! Mystery solved! I let her be while the other hens got settled, then later I gently rescued her & placed her inside the hen house with a gentle kiss. 'Night, night' I whispered & vowed always to check more carefully for loose hens every evening!!