Thursday, 21 November 2013

A return to blogging...

I've had a prolonged absence from the blog. At half term my dear, dear Mother-in-law passed away unexpectedly. When you lose a loved one like that the world falls apart and the long lists of practicalities to be dealt with consume any remaining emotional energy. My joie de vivre and certainly my zest for writing and blogging disappeared. 

But amid the sadness and the tears and the readjustment and all the organising and sorting and endless paperwork we have shared some happy moments too.

Last weekend we were working through a mammoth pre-funeral to-do list. The get-together after the funeral was to be held at our home so you can imagine the kind of things on the list: 

hoover entire house
clean bathroom
bake cakes
go shopping
etc.

On our list there was also:

pick up chickens between 2.45pm and 3.30pm on Saturday

That didn't mean chickens for eating at the buffet. Oh no, that meant live chickens for restocking our flock. I'm overstating it slightly - our flock had dwindled this summer to a sole surviving chicken, Yoko. I wrote about our dilemma of what to do with a lonely, non-laying chicken here. The many thoughtful comments on that blog post helped us reach the decision to find her some friends quickly before she became too cold on her owny own in the hen house. 

Where better to find feathered friends for Yoko than to look to the British Hen Welfare Trust? They're a national charity who find homes for commercial laying hens destined for slaughter. The whole process couldn't have been easier. A quick phone call reserved us four chickens at the next collection day (which take place every 6-8 weeks I think) and it transpired that the nearest pick-up point was near Malmesbury, only about 8 miles from where we live.

When the time came, collecting four ex-caged hens felt absolutely the right pre-funeral thing to be doing. Nana had known all about the plans for the new chickens before she died, and as a great animal lover she would have hated the thought of our four reserved chickens left with no home to go to. And we'd have been letting poor Yoko down too.

We were prepared for the chickens to need some rehabilitation; we were warned that they wouldn't be accustomed to night and day, or walking on the earth, or weather conditions but although I'd seen pictures on other blogs and in the media, nothing can prepare you for seeing a run full of girls in this sorry state. The kids were shocked, "Their bellies look like the chicken you'd see in the fridge in a supermarket..." We were shocked. Battery farming may have ended in Britain but it's clear that intensive factory farming hasn't.


Peggy, one of our baldest chickens.

Happily, our new girls have settled in quickly. There was some initial bullying from Yoko which made us angry, "We got these hens to keep YOU company! Don't you think they've been through enough already without you picking on them!" we shouted at her, and she soon got the message. We put out several feeding stations, so Yoko didn't have to worry about them eating her food, and after one night of keeping them separate in the hen house, they came down to breakfast like old friends. Hopefully they'll feather up soon to withstand the predicted cold weather.


Much better than eating chicken at a funeral wake is talking about chickens and the superiority of free range eggs. The vicar may have been used to this topic of conversation and beat a hasty retreat after his sandwich and cake, but not all our visitors were so lucky in escaping a trip to the chicken coop. Nana often likened her youngest son (known as Husband here on the blog) to Tom in The Good Life. I think she would have approved.

20 comments:

  1. I'm so sorry about your mother-in-law. My mom passed away suddenly in September and it was amazing to me how much work it was just to get the basics dealt with. I never really understood the custom of bringing food to a family when someone dies until now, because it's like suddenly you have a huge amount of work to do just to deal with the funeral, not to mention trying to work through your emotions - who can think about cooking in that situation!

    You have my most sincere condolences... and I'm glad you're back... and I totally LOVE your chicken rescue story. I had no idea there were people out there working to find homes for such birds... it made me happy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know, cooking becomes the last thing on your mind. The support we've had has been humbling. And chicken-wise, we were humbled too, to find volunteers who would willingly give up their weekends to make sure a load of scruffy but lovable chickens go to good homes.

      Delete
  2. I'm glad that, at least for now, things have settled down enough that you can join us again on your blog. I am very sorry about the passing of your mother-in-law. As you know, my father passed away in April and I know it's never easy. As CatLady said, there is a lot to deal with both practically and emotionally. My sincere condolences go out to your husband and the rest of the family.

    Your story about the chickens reminded me of my grandmother who always had chickens that we got to feed and gather eggs from. I have been thinking about both my grandmother and my father a lot lately with good memories about the farm they lived on and I visited. And while I may shed a few tears as I remember these things, they are good memories.

    Looking forward to hearing more about the progress of your flock.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you. The list of practicalities is finally shrinking - it's that strange mix of it seeming bad luck that just when you're at your lowest ebb you have to become a demon administrator, but fortunate that you have something else to focus on.

      Delete
  3. So sorry to hear about the loss of your Mother in Law.
    It sounds like the new chickens have come at the right time (for yourselves and Yoko), I think your Mother in Law would be most impressed.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I'm so sorry for your loss, my friend!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Lena. I hope your mum's treatment is going OK.

      Delete
  5. What a heartwarming story! It's so great to think we can honour our loved ones by carrying on with our plans, especially ones they knew about and would have appreciated. Losing someone leaves a hole that can't be filled, but I hope things settle down for you soon.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Dar. She's left a big void indeed but also plenty of happy memories and I'm sure it will be easier to focus on those as time goes on.

      Delete
  6. Great Post. So sorry for your loss but also happy for your gain. I love that you have provided a home for creatures so unloved. I hope they reward your kindness with many eggs and lots of hysterical antics as only chickens can. Cheers from downunder.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Despite the huge upheaval the poor things have been laying already, although the eggs have really thin shells. A sad reminder of just how genetically bred for laying they are.

      Delete
  7. So sorry about your sad news. It sounds as though she'd have appreciated the chickens being the topic of conversation at her wake even if it did scare the vicar off!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Poor vicar - we're not regular church goers but we've promised to go to his forthcoming leaving service. He must be dreading the thought of those 'mad chicken people' making a bee line for him!

      Delete
    2. You go - he will either feel sad that he has to leave such interesting and unusual people, or secretly rejoice that he has to leave such interesting and unusual people!!! But he will be glad to see you at the event nonetheless! Take him an egg as a leaving present.

      Delete
  8. What a lovely tribute to your mother in law. Thoughts and prayers with and for you all.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Nice to see you back in blogland. Sad news re your mum in law, but happy news re the hens. I didnt realise that the conditions they are being kept in now after the banning of cages meant that they are still suffering badly. Glad all ours are out on grass producing lovely free range eggs for our local people to buy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. At least that's the joy of keeping chickens - you know EXACTLY what conditions they've been kept in. We're hoping to fence in the allotment and let the chickens dig it over for us this winter!

      Delete
  10. So sorry. Know how you are feeling as I lost my father on November 9th. Tough time, so sad. Back to blog reading but not up to writing yet. Take care.

    ReplyDelete