Having spent most of this week (small)holding the fort while James went on his annual boys’ trip, this time walking from Whitstable along the coast to Dover and up to Canterbury, I feel thoroughly immersed in the company of animals. Apart from a lovely family gathering on Sunday – when my niece Rebecca and I discovered that the Araucanas had laid their first eggs of the season, and collected them warm from the coop – and one or two trips out, it was largely just me and the dogs, cat, pigs and chickens. A wonderful ‘slow’ few days when there was time to stand and stare.
On my last afternoon off before going back to work at Country Living HQ yesterday, I took a book and garden chair down to the end of our plot to enjoy the warm afternoon sun and watch and listen to the Old Spots and hybrids truffling and pecking away respectively. When the hens are out and the pigs in their extended run there’s only a couple of lengths of corrugated iron between them. In the back of my mind, I’ve had a slight concern that if the hybrids become too close to the porcine pair they could get eaten by their voracious neighbours. So when I saw my favourite brown chicken, AKA The Hen That Never Grew Up (so called due to her relatively small size), in the pig run I did my best to move her out again – and was chased by the Old Spots myself. Despite their enormous size, they can get quite a pace on! There was no stopping The Hen That Never Grew Up, though. Soon after my efforts, she jumped over the boundary and began cannily gleaning all the worms and other poultry treasures that the pigs were unearthing with their powerful snouts.
They appeared to work in tandem – she following these remarkable Rotovators with just enough distance so as not to get snapped up when they turned round in her direction. I couldn’t help admiring this unlikely partnership – who says chickens aren’t clever?