I was hoping to have a dozen fertile Ixworth hen eggs incubating away in the machine on our kitchen worktop by now, but – as every farmer I’ve ever met or interviewed says – when it comes to animals, nothing is guaranteed and you have to be flexible. Unsurprisingly, the West Country holding (South Yeo Farm East in Devon) where the said clutch are being produced have had more than their fair share of wet, blustery weather over the past few weeks, which has meant their flock have been off-lay. Gillian called this week to say she plans to post a dozen fresh beauties early next week instead. The delay means James and I are even more excited about their arrival – plus we now have borrowed time to read up about raising chicks. A favourite poultry read in the office at the moment is the River Cottage Handbook: Chicken & Eggs by Mark Diacano (Bloomsbury, £14.99) – part of the highly covetable series of hardback guides to the good life (although no edition on the subject of pigs as yet – still to come, I hope!). CL Picture Editor and fellow country commuter Jackie is an avid reader of all things henkeeping-related at the moment as she is taking delivery of a coop next weekend and visiting our plot with her boyfriend Cristian that Saturday to glean some advice. I’ve already warned her that we will spend most of the afternoon saying ‘We did this, but what you want to do is…’ when it comes to setting out the run (we should have divided ours into two so that we could rest what was once the grass on one side while the hybrids grazed the other) and what types of bird to keep. Does anyone else have a snippet of advice for a first-time henkeeper?