So what do you do when you need to cut the grass...
you get the mini tractor started up,
which already has the cutting thingy on the back of it, that's what you do.
And so as you move the tractor forward,
what do you do if you hear the loud squawk of a hen somewhere near your feet....
you stop the tractor toute suite, that is what you do.
Then you investigate....
and you find that a black hen has set up a nesting camp,
and has a huge pile of eggs upon which she is sitting,
and that you couldn't see her in the first place
because she is sitting half under the tarpaulin which is covering the bale of straw,
and that the wheels of the tractor had been exactly beside the bale,
and that she must have fidgeted a hole for herself betwixt the straw and the wheel,
so she could make a cosy home for herself
while she went into broody mode.
But the tractor cannot be moved any other way except forward,
the space being tight, but still easy to manoeuvre in.
Unless, of course, you have a hen sitting bang up against the wheel,
which naturally creates a problem.
Maybe the grass could have left for another day,
but Lester, for this is the driver of the tractor,
well he had fixed it into his head that the paths needed cutting,
so he was 'a man on a mission', and not to be thwarted.
So what to do....
you call your wife, that is what you do,
first to complain about the hen sitting in such a 'silly' position,
which would not have seemed such a 'silly' position to her,
as I pointed out,
because the tractor wheel added a measure of security for her,
unless it was moved,
which of course would then give her a fright
as her quiet world suddenly became unquiet,
this I pointed out, which did not go down too well with himself,
as I have said, he was a man on a mission,
so then I was given instructions to act as traffic controller,
or in this case,
and to let him know if he accidentally drove over the hen.
He also said to stop photo shooting the occasion
and to concentrate on the job in hand.
As you can see, I didn't take any notice of that bit of instruction.
The arrow shows the tail feathers of the hen.
Lester has inched forward slightly.
So far so good.
A bit of backward and forwarding,
and all is still well.
..... and you just about see a tiny black blob of tail feather...
Lester says "Is she still alive?"
From where I am taking this photo it looks like she is not,
but it is the manner of broody hens that they shut themselves down
and go into a kind of half light world,
where all bodily functions slow down,
and their breath is hardly there at all,
sort of like a very deep meditative state.
So I give her a prod,
and she does a 'For goodness sake, leave me alone' cluck,
so yes, she is still with us.
I pull the tarp over her.....
meanwhile Lester heads off into the distance....
...while the rottweiller girls pretend that they are not interested,
but I know they are....
So what to do with them...
take them inside with me, that's what I have to do,
otherwise they will be raiding that black hen's nest of her eggs,
and that is not going to happen,
not on my watch.
So it is the morning of the next day,
and I am out feeding the other lot of chicks who recently arrived,
and I go have a look at the black hen,
but she was not there,
but her pile of eggs were,
but there she was, just over there,
and with her were three little chicks.
So what do I do...
go get Lester and pass on the good news, that's what I do.
He has a close look at the remaining eggs,
sees that a couple look like the chicks are starting to break through their shells,
but they can't be left out in the air like this,
too dangerous for them,
so we carefully pick up all the eggs,
take them indoors,
and put them in the incubator.
For the rest of the day we watch as the eggs start hatching,
first one, then two, then three.
There is an awesome magic in watching chicks arrive.
It added an extra shine to the day for us.
The black hen and her three chicks are now in a protected run.
She is asleep.
So we take the three chicks out of the incubator and snuck them underneath her.
She hardly moves.
They are quick to take advantage of her duvet of feathers,
and after a little bout of cheeps, go quiet.
During the night,
another two chicks hatched in the incubator,
the loud complaints of the newly hatched of 'Where's my Mum?'
alerting us to their arrival.
They went out to join the others.
And so it is a good thing that hen's can't count,
because she went to bed with three,
and will wake up with eight!
Off to go feed her now,
so bye for now,