Tag Archives: eggs

An Easter delivery

Easter chickWith spring flowers, chicks and eggs both chocolate and hen, Easter is certainly hot on our heels.  A little rabbit even crept onto the table too (thanks to Pol Roger Champagne for inviting me to share a dinner party favourite), leaving Poppy completely appalled that Mummy and Daddy might have kidnapped the Easter bunny and eaten him!


However, Easter just wouldn’t be Easter dear Reader, without lambs.  Bouncing little bundles of spring joy.  In fact, Poppy, Primrose and I have been reminiscing about our orphans from last year and wondering about a few more.  Since I don’t have any grazing of my own to speak of, finding willing landowners happy to part with a field for six months is pretty tricky.

Lambing2015-2 So, missing my three bleating little ones, I decided to offer my very inexperienced services to a lovely local (very patient) shepherdess whose flock was about to triple within a matter of weeks.  The maternity wing was already full of triplets when I got there and in the biting wind and driving rain, the shed was by far the best place for lambs, ewes (and Margot) to shelter.  Keen to put me to work, the shepherdess had me learning the ropes in no time – docking tails, castration (cross your legs – it’s all about the rubber bands)….checking feet and monitoring newborns.   Even the polytunnel had been cleared out to be used as a makeshift intensive care unit for difficult births and struggling lambs.  Such a lot to get done before the next birth and all that while you’re on red alert for any ewes who look as though they might be going into labour.  Scanning and dating I learn, is no real guarantee of just when lambs might make an appearance and the shepherdess has her trusty notebook with her at all times, referring to notes on when each ewe is due and how many babies.  Some are first timers, others are old hands at lambing and will be giving birth for the third or fourth time.  First timers are always more of a worry, the shepherdess tells me.

Lambing2015-1Lambing is a curious thing….much like giving birth to human babies.  A lot of waiting around, a bit of action, a lot more waiting around and then everything happening in a matter of ten minutes.  Reading my sheep husbandry handbook was no real preparation for witnessing my first live lamby birth – it was amazing.  Even more wonderful to be there ready to assist when one lamb got a bit stuck in the process and the ewe had to be helped out.  Oooh, dear Reader, this was truly Lambing Live and I was standing by like James Herriot in the middle of a field, with a bucket full of delivery essentials and a shepherdess sporting a long plastic glove.  I think that the shepherdess was rendered quite dumbstruck when I got out my phone and starting taking pictures…..  Oh the shame, dear Reader, I am a complete total farming amateur!  Too good to miss recording it for the children to see later that day though!


When the second lamb popped out unaided fifteen minutes later, all hands were on deck to get the newborns and ewe into the trailer before the wet lambs became too cold up at the top of the field.  All this care, love and attention for something that will eventually reach the table.  I am in awe of the work all our farmers do and how much effort goes into bringing meat to consumers.


Keen to get more practice in, I popped over with Poppy and Primrose to see how the rest of the ewes were getting on a day or so later.  Tons more naughty scampering triplets and happy ewes!  Anyone who thinks that sheep don’t have much personality couldn’t be more wrong.  You can see just what kind of mothers they are by watching them for five minutes.  Poppy and Primrose spent an hour running up and down the fields with lambs following and gambolling, their mothers watching on or trotting behind.  Definitely what Easter in the countryside is all about!

Much to the girls’ delight, there was even a spot of newborn cuddles to be had.  One of the shepherdess’ more troublesome ewes had given birth to her triplets just the night before our visit and one of her babies had really really struggled to perk up following the trauma of birth.  Dubbed Minnie, we found her in the kitchen in a cardboard box.  A tiny little thing and destined to be fed by bottle for the moment as she hasn’t had much strength and is considerably smaller than her siblings.  Snuggling up to a newborn lamb has to be the highlight for Poppy and Primrose this Easter – much better than a chocolate egg any day they told Jerry and I afterwards in the car on the way home!


Looks like little Minnie may well be needing a foster home too………….the prospect sent me scuttling to the garage to get the huge bottle of Milton and lamby bottles out again.  Despite  Jerry rolling his eyes, there may well be a cardboard box with a lamb in it in the kitchen very soon!  Well how could we resist such a darling little face, dear Reader?!!!  Happy Easter!


Clucky cluck

Our feathered ladies and their hen chalet!

Our feathered ladies and their hen chalet!

With all the excitement of not having power for three days following the storm, I completely forgot to tell you about the latest additions to Margot’s brood, dear Reader.  Our first foray into feathers…….CHICKENS!!!!

Having bulldozed Jerry into the idea, aided and abetted by Primrose and Poppy, we somehow managed to find four little hens looking for a ‘good life’ too!  So off I popped in the car for the five mile drive to Alison, the ‘chicken lady’, who was a delight to meet and managed to show us all her cockerels and hens, despite suffering from a dreadful harvest injury having fallen from a ladder whilst picking apples.  Only in the countryside dear Reader…!  Primrose was fascinated by all the different sorts of chickens especially the Legbars and their blue eggs but most of all wanted to see Alison’s pony.  With the mention of vintage tractors too, I thought that Primrose might well adopt Alison and give her own mother the heave-ho!  Chickens, ponies, AND vintage tractors…….Primrose was in seventh heaven!  The whole ‘putting the chickens into a box’ malarkey was hilarious and we nearly lost the four of them in the wind when Primrose opened the crate and attempted to pick one up!  Finally in their cardboard box, I had visions of them escaping in the back of the Lanny as we made our way home along the country lanes….thankfully all was well and the Hampshire feathered four clucked away merrily,

SO without further ado dear Reader, I introduce to you our four clucky hybrid girls:

Primrose's plucky Pru

Primrose’s plucky Pru

Prudence (Pru for short) is Primrose’s hen and she is a Magpie.  The biggest hen by far and quite feisty too!  She was the first to lay on their second day with us and has already given us some beautiful double-yolked eggs.  A rather wonderful treat indeed!

Our little brown girl

Our little brown girl

Henny Penny (Poppy’s girl) is a very friendly little Columbian BlackTail and comes from the same breeder who breeds hens for Prince Charles’ Highgrove estate and Waitrose!  She is a poppet and really doesn’t mind the fact that she has to make do with our more rustic setting when all her little brown henny friends have gone to far grander surroundings.

Our green dotted lady

Dotty, my little hen, (a very nervous Cuckoo Speckledy) seems to be the primary escape artist and can often be found sitting on the roof of the hen house.  Dot evades all human touch for now but I am intent on winning her round with mealworms!

Our rock chick!

Our rock chick!

Finally, Layla, Jerry’s chicken (spot the attempt at a comedy name from Jerry) a beautiful looking Light Sussex.  So far she seems very shy and only ventures out when she spies a handful of corn being scattered.  She loves to cosy up in the nesting box.

With the hens settled and exploring their new surroundings, Jerry set about erecting the electric fence.  A much bigger job than Jerry and I expected.  I’m afraid that Jerry spent most of an afternoon in the rain cursing me for persuading him into an adventure with livestock.  To be fair to Jerry, I had tangled most of the netting and he spent an hour getting soaked to keep the hens safe at night from Mr Foxy Loxy.  To add to the drama, Monty got a little too acquainted with the fence at one point and has since given it and the chickens a very wide berth!!!

Look at those beauties!!!

Look at those beauties!!!

Two weeks in and the excitement of peeping into the nest box hasn’t waned.  Each day, Primrose, Poppy and I tiptoe to the coop to see if our feathered friends have left us any eggy offerings.  I have to say that even the hen’sceptic’ Jerry is mildly won over by the abundance of brown eggs!  Two a day so far and some HUGE eggs have appeared considering the hens are only 24 weeks old.  It is miraculous how they manage it!  Happy to report that I am now completely hen obsessed and spend most mornings (at the crack of dawn standing in the chicken run in my pyjamas, coat and wellies) trying to work out who has given us an egg and who is top of the pecking order.  I have also developed a rather serious habit for buying chicken paraphernalia……..well, would you expect anything less, dear Reader?  In fact, I am off to buy an egg run from my favourite haunt, Garden Trading, right this minute to display our ‘egg’cellent haul in the kitchen for all to see.

Our very first boiled eggs from our own hens! Perfect!

Our very first boiled egg from our own hens! Perfect!