Travelling has been the theme of the week and more specifically, visiting poultry-keeping friends. Last Friday I took the train up to Edinburgh for a long overdue weekend with my university pal and old flatmate Katherine. She lives in a pretty cottage just half an hour’s walk from the city centre, but I’ve rarely experienced such a tranquil setting, in town or country.
The weekend was utterly perfect and whenever we relaxed, read or ate in the garden, Katherine’s chicken would provide us – and neighbouring residents – with plenty of entertainment. She had bought the bird a few weeks ago as company for her old hen Speckle who sadly died a fortnight or so after. However, by the time I arrived on Friday evening, Katherine had discovered why her new recruit wasn’t laying. ‘I’ve been sold a cockerel, haven’t I?’ she said as I peered in through the netting.
There was no denying his large comb and wattles, impressive stature and upright tail. She named him Roger the Rooster and he spent the rest of the weekend endeavouring to earn his keep if nor in eggs, with crowing. He made that rather touching tentative sound young cockerels do and, thankfully, not starting too early in the morning or too loudly either. Despite her affection for the handsome fellow, she wasn’t keen on keeping a non-laying bird, so rang the breeder who’d mistakenly sold her Roger, exchanging him for two pullets (young hens) who are already producing eggs.
Meanwhile Country Living Features Editor Lisa (AKA Twitter’s @countrycommuter, http://twitter.com/#!/countrycommuter), has taken delivery of three Welsummer ladies, which I met yesterday, having driven down to Sussex for the day to work on Country Living’s plans for 2012. They’re a pretty flock, just 14 weeks old with tiny combs that only started to appear this week. Lisa fears they may not lay till next spring 2012. Having experienced this same phonomenen last year I sympathise. Hatching out pure-breed chicks in April (including our Rhode Island Red and the twin Araucanas), meant they reached point of lay just as the nights drew in and it turned chilly (often, pure breeds won’t lay at all over winter), so no eggs were forthcoming from this trio till February this year, when they were discovered with overexcitment and poached immediately.
However, I’m sure once they swing into production Lisa’s won’t disappoint – Welsummers are both pretty and hardy, plus they lay beautiful speckled mahogany-brown eggs that will be well worth the waiting for over winter.