My Client in Somerset had considerably more hens than the last time I sat for her! Undaunted, I promised her faithfully I would make sure each and everyone was safely in the hen-house before it got dark and that I would count them as she did to make sure that none were left out to provided the local foxes with a free chicken dinner! I had also been tasked with encouraging the rather attractive, smoky-blue Marans to leave the coup as they weren’t socializing with the other poultry. The two Blue Marans and the four Amber Stars were the newest birds to join my Client’s flock and were somewhat low in the pecking order of the chicken run! The more dominant Marans and Barnevelders, big bolshy birds, kept everyone in their place!! Even the tiny Silkies with their feathery feet seemed to have a higher status than the poor Blues.

Having encouraged the new girls out into the sunshine I watched with irritation as a red hen chased them back towards their nest boxes. I glared at the retreating feathery tail-end of the bully bird and thought `stuffing!’ Then I picked up both the Blues and carried them, one under each arm, out to the far end of the run where I set them down by a feeder and stood guard over them as they pecked nervously at the corn.

Despite the warm, sunny weather I would often don my yellow Wellington boots before entering the chicken run. The Blue Marans began to associate my yellow welly boots with food and safety and would often follow me around the compound which I found rather touching.

As it grew dusky the hens would put themselves away and take up their places on the various perches in coup. Around 8.30 pm I’d pick up a torch and wander towards the hen-house where I would count my chickens before bed! This wasn’t as easy as you might think as often I’d reach twenty having to start again because one of the Barnevelders was sitting on a smaller Silkie and I couldn’t see her or a couple of Marons had squashed a red hen into a corner hiding it, unintentionally of course! It was always with some degree of relief that the interrogatory beam of my torch would shine over all the poultry and I would finally reach twenty-three!