I’m happy to say that, having moved in to the new coop with her sister Araucana Audrey a week ago, Mabel has finally got the hang of going to bed at night all by herself. She follows her feathered friend up the little purple stairway and into the house at dusk instead of loitering outside, perched on a wall waiting for me to tuck her in.
If I return from work when it’s still a lovely light evening, I let them out of the run so they can free range for a while under my watchful eye. I love this time with them – they’re at their most docile and friendly, plus they chirrup away gently which, for some reason, is one of the most soothing sounds I’ve ever heard. At some stage I’m going to don an old skirt and try what Alice Walker, author of The Color Purple but also The Chicken Chronicles (Phoenix House, £7.99) recommends, which is sitting down so you’re closer to your hens’ level and waiting for them to settle in your lap. I think Audrey would be keen on a cuddle but Mabel might need some persuasion – I expect bribing her with corn is the answer.
As well as Mabel’s improved bedtime behaviour, she is also back in lay, producing those tiny – almost bantam-size – beautiful pale khaki eggs I adore. There are few things more delicious than one poached and eaten in a toasted and lightly Marmited muffin; I know what I’ll be having for breakfast tomorrow.
That’ll provide the strength James and I need to lift and move the henhouse and run to another spot in the garden. In just three days the girls have completely destroyed the grass in their run. What was green and dense has been pecked and scratched into something that resembles coconut matting. If we rotate their pen at least weekly hopefully each patch will have a chance to recover and the girls will be furnished with fresh grass to enjoy. It’s the least I can do considering what excellent chicken companionship and beautiful orange-yolked eggs they provide me with.