There are worse things than being in lockdown land. As a gardener, being in lockdown land in high gales and pouring rain is a frustration. The last handful of apples that had been courageously clinging on to the tree tops, finally succumbed to last nights’ onslaught. Underfoot, what was once a vibrant green, has been transformed into a carpet of russets, yellows, oranges, browns and reds. The fruit trees are stripped bare and starting to shiver! As usual, it’s all come too quickly and taken me by surprise.
My ‘girls’ are in their hen pen, happily rummaging through the leaves, as they pick out their favourite snacks. Four of them arrived back in May, on a sunny Saturday afternoon. They were unrecognisable!! What a busy and upsetting day they must have had, starting with human contact. Two car rides later and they were finally deposited into a strange and unfamiliar environment. They didn’t even know how to walk properly, such had been their restricted and cooped up existence – until now! Quite frankly – and I don’t mean to offend anyone’s sensibilities here but there’s no other way to put this- they looked like they’d been prepared for the oven!
‘Deep litter’ hens live in the middle of a large flock (can be up to or over 1000), in a barn, and are unlikely to have seen much daylight. These lovely girls are good little layers but after their first 72 weeks their production rate slows down, laying around 5 fewer eggs each a year. They become too costly for the farmer to keep. My rescue girls have learned to navigate their way around their new home with the freedom to roam and scratch about. At first they didn’t even know how to respond to the sunshine and hid in a hedge but they soon relearned their chicken ways. They were scared of me but a couple of sessions of ‘chicken whispering’ cured that. They run up to greet me when they see me now. It took a week of patience and kindness, mixed with only a modicum of bribery and corruption in the shape of mixed corn! The newbies also had to contend with the territorial instincts of my older chickens. The occasional riot still breaks out in the hen pen.
I don’t know about you but I can relate to how my rescue girls might have been feeling. Having been in lockdown land, restricted and cooped up, we must also learn how to step our way through this new environment we find ourselves in. We’re still finding our feet and are relearning our chicken ways; social distancing, social bubbles and different working practices. We, like my girls, have been through a lot so, let’s be patient. It really has been hard and it still is. Give yourself some grace. Be kind to yourself (and others), and yes, by all means, treat yourself to whatever makes you smile. If that means a daily handful of mixed corn then – hey- who am I to judge?