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
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.