Saturday, 29 March 2008

West Side Story

Listening to: Child In Time (Deep Purple)
Weather: sunny, strong breeze
Surf: 4ft, offshore wind, looking good
Piglets due in: 10 days

Spring doesn't so much as bust out all over the place on Westray as stagger through a life or death struggle with the wind and the rain. Two days of snow and cold north winds earlier in the week made the place lovely to look at, but winter seems to be on its way out.

Daffodils are out, two of the last three days have brought sunshine that - a stiff breeze notwithstanding - has felt warm at last and, with the change to Summertime tonight, it will still be light at 8pm. Everywhere is still wetter than a British Prime Minister in a meeting with George Bush, but there's reason to hope for dry ground some time soon.

We have treated ourselves to some more hens - four, to be exact. It had become obvious that we didn't have enough active layers with the two older hens having given up. And, yes, the one chicken is still being a complete bitch and, no, I haven't plucked (!) up the courage to wring her neck. (Joan Collins - there, I've just named her).

Anyhow, a call was put in to the family on the island's Westside who had provided us with the original mob and Sal and myself trundled over to collect (remembering this time to stick a very large cardboard box in the back of the Land Rover - no repeats of last time's Black Hole of Westray).

We went into their hen house to collect and I froze.

Regular readers will know I'm scared of hens and am in the middle of a kind of therapy, involving one of our older hens who follows me around like a faithful dog and who is so quiet and easy-going I've felt able to stroke her and offer her food out of my hand. She's a confident old bird and this is her pinching the pigs' food this afternoon.

In complete contrast, these new hens were as quiet and easy-going as a bunch of Millwall fans after a 4-0 home defeat. OK, so they weren't throwing heavy duty fireworks or torching cars, but they might as well have been - I would possibly have been able to deal with it.

No, the little buggers decided they didn't much fancy the move to Casa del Trainee Pig Farmer and squawked, flapped, screeched and did everything bar write to their MP (no point on Orkney, he's a Lib Dem).

Sal stubbed out a metaphorical fag, rolled up imaginary sleeves and waded in, helping their owner Christine grab the nearest four noisy, flappy, pecky, bastards and shove them into the box held by a trainee pig farmer who was now rooted to the spot, unable to move - think of Michelangelo's David. . . only with more clothes.

Long-suffering wife bundled box and trainee pig farmer out of the door, muttering darkly about big girl's blouses. A reviving coffee raised spirits for the journey home, we dumped the box in the middle of the hen house and waited.

Nothing. The four hens were cowering in the bottom and the only way we could get them out without a repeat of the flapping/squawking/rushing about fiasco was to tip it over on its side (very gently) and wait.

They emerged and over the next couple of days investigated their surroundings. Egg production has increased only slightly, but it's early days and, as umpteen football managers told me in my previous life as a sports hack, new signings need time to settle in.

Adam the cockerel can't believe his luck and has been 'at it' like Russell Brand after a meal of oysters, but there's a definite divide between the old hens and the new gang.

The newbies have marked out their turf, taking the upper shelf in the hen house while the old hands stalk the floor and the lower nesting box - straw bales are disputed territory.

Sharks and Jets?


fiwa said...

Ok, now that you put it that way, I can understand why you don't like the hens. I had forgotten just how aggressive chickens can be. My sister used to raise fryer chickens by the tens of thousands, and for some reason they were not as aggressive. I don't know if it was the living quarters or what. But I do remember the yard hens we had as a kid being very territorial and trying to "spur" you if you got in their way.

I think the lads are much more attractive pigs than the ladies. :)

Anonymous said...

I am drunk and/or disconnected, but the pigs grew spots????!?!?!?

Richard said...

When I was a youngster almost everyone I knew round here kept chickens and I can remember collecting eggs without ever getting bothered. Are chickens becoming more delinquent? We didn't have any although we had two dilapidated chicken sheds.

Mangonel said...

Hmm - lovely to have new chickens who actually pull their weight - can't imagine a pigfarm in Orkney with room for passengers - but what happens to the old ones? Do they make good eating?

Ginni Dee said...

I've just been holding my baby chicks! I have six, so far! I wish I could find a place to get started pullets like you got! I have 6 but may be getting rid of all of them, if they're all cockerels! I only want pullets. I'm going to get some sex-link chicks in a few days. (The sexes are easy to tell apart because they're different colors.) If she has none left after filling her orders on Tues, I'll order some.

We are brooding them in a cut off plastic barrel right now, until we get the coop done. We've been out working on it all day.

I'm glad you got more chickens. Chickens are very territorial and may take a while for them to get used to each other, but they will...just as you'll get used to them!

Oh and BTW, I love the new photo of your big girls on your header!

Rol said...

I never feel like it's Spring until the grass starts growing.

No sign of it yet.

I, still, ♥ the views said...

*humming various tunes from Westray Side Story*


rather than football signings, this made me think of that Wallace & Grommit film - the one without Wallace or Grommit, but with some chickens. . .

Malc said...


I think these new hens are just a bit nervous and not as used to human contact as the older ones.

Age isn't particularly kind to pigs - they just keep getting bigger. The girls do have a certain charm though.


Drunk - the best way to read this blog. . . or write it. Have a couple for me.


I think they'll settle in. It's just the flapping I can't handle.


I'm not so sure. . . with the tally currently one egg a day from eight hens. I reckon it's time to get out my clipboard and red pen.


I look forward to hearing how you get on. Have you thought about keeping the males for meat?


There's very little green here, the fields look very tired.


Wallace and Grommit without Wallace and Grommit? A bit like Taggart these days.

I'm much too soft to be a Mrs Tweedy.

Anonymous said...

I want to live in a he-en house, I want to live in a he-en house etc. etc

you know, if a chicken tries to - I don't know - peck you with its teeny tiny beak, you can always give it a good kick. I won't tell the RSPCA if you dont.

The Birdwatcher said...

I don't like spiders but I don't think I would fancy the idea of an old one following me around so I could stroke it every so often. By the way have the lads got a good PR agency on their case? All these scare stories about bacon and sausages being more dangerous nuclear war?

Anonymous said...

The pigs in your header photo are so docile and contented. But your new hens, now, they seem positively headstrong!

lettuce said...

jets and sharks - very funny, that conjures up some great images. so, which are the lousy chickens?