I returned home last night from Country Living HQ and, as is the custom, let Araucanas Audrey and Mabel out to free-range round the garden. After being cooped up all day in their run, a stretch of their little legs and wings as they peck and scratch about on the lawn is usually just what they need. After opening up the henhouse door, I ran upstairs to change into some gardening clothes so I could do a little lawn edging and returned five minutes later to discover that Mabel had shunned her perfectly adequate, well-established dust-bathing station by the shed for a patch between a courgette and tomato plant in my raised bed and was merrily burrowing into the organic compost therein.
Hens do this seemingly paradoxical act of cleansing (often in plain soil) to rid their feathers of pesky insects and cool themselves down. As she wasn’t damaging either crop I decided to turned a blind eye, unlike Audrey, Mabel’s white counterpart who could barely believe her tiny, feather-covered eyes.
Meanwhile James has been a little disappointed over the strawberry crop so far, which has been decimated by slugs. He’s managed to eat approximately one undamaged one a day on his way down to let out the chickens and, rather than leaving the semi-munched fruits for the slippery pests to enjoy finishing off, he’s had great satisfaction in feeding them to the flock instead (as well as leftover potato which they always enjoy). Simple pleasures!
If you keep hens, I’d love to hear what you treat yours to.