anyone who followed my last blog will be aware that we keep chickens.  just the two – they’re pets, really, rather than livestock.  it has its drawbacks.  they have destroyed the garden, since they’re enthusiastic foragers.  that doesn’t really bother us too much though, since neither of us are particularly keen gardeners, and the eggs are just awesome.  seriously – there is no way on earth you can buy eggs as tasty or as big as these in the supermarket.  our hens are happy hens. ^_^

but last week, one of our girls, Alan (and i will explain that name later) took ill suddenly, and spent the next twenty-four hours dying slowly and in pain.  it was very upsetting, as she was a lovely girl.

this left Ruby on her own.  i have known of chickens living without any others of their kind, but they always had a lot of human contact to go a little way towards making up for this.  ours live in the garden and are alone all day and it would not be fair on Ruby to leave her so.

therefore, this past week, i was on the hunt for a local supplier of live pullets (hens before they mature and start to lay), which was somewhat easier than the last time we went looking.  whether it is because the fashion for keeping backyard chickens has taken hold properly or not, i don’t know, but we found one living a few miles away (it’s pretty rural around here), contacted them, and found they had exactly what we were after.

yesterday, we brought home our new chicken, and friend for Ruby.

this is Winnie. she was still a little nervous when i took this photo, hence the slightly hunted expression (insofar as a chicken can be said to *have* an expression...)


when we were chosing our chicken, we had a couple of things to take into consideration.  the first was her health.  Winnie has just come into lay, and her comb is a good colour and standing up straight – indicative of good health.  she also has all of her feathers, and they are well-groomed (in the pic, it looks like some of her wing feathers are missing.  this is because we clipped her wings  when she came to us, to prevent her flying into next door’s garden, as they have dogs). the second, almost as important, was attitude.  we needed a chicken able to stand up for herself, since Ruby is older, bigger, and grumpier.  and this garden is her territory.  however, whilst we were standing next to the run discussing this with the breeder, the flock rooster came belting past, pursued by a feisty little madam, who was enthusiastically tugging his feathers and scolding him at the top of her voice.

we both pointed and said “We’ll have that one!”

she was somewhat nervous when we let her out into the garden, and Ruby immediately set about showing her who was boss (remember, the phrase “pecking order” is derived from the social structure of chickens, which is very hierarchical).  i don’t mind admitting that i was worried that the feistiness displayed in her own coop would be squashed by this new environment.  however, hubby tells me that when he went out to give them their mash this afternoon, he put the bowl down and Winnie showed no hesitation in giving Ruby a shove in order to get to the food.  this was a relief, and i think she’ll be all right. 🙂

a note on names:

Alan was named for our favourite character in a Channel 4 comedy series called “Green Wing”.  the show was set in a hospital and was one of the oddest, funniest things on television.  the character in question was a radiologist called Dr Alan Statham, played by the comedy god, Mark Heap.  he (the character) has certain chicken-like qualities in his demeanour and movement, and we do so love giving cross-gender and cross-species names to pets…  if you want to have a look at a compilation of Green Wing clips featuring Dr Statham, go here.  i would embed the video, but YouTube disabled it. 😦

Ruby was named for cockney rhyming slang: Ruby Murray =  (chicken) curry.  yeah – we like to do that, too…  😉

Winnie was named from a conversation hubby and i had yesterday morning.  it went thusly:

H:  What’s the french for “chicken”?

S:  Poulet.

H: *thinks for a moment*  …Well…  we can’t call her “Pooh” – that’s just stupid!

*both think for a moment, and then share a grin*

H&S:  Winnie!