Hens born and bred in situ are best layers

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THE bottom of the big foldyard now resembles a poultry maternity ward. Two bantams are sitting on clutches of guinea fowl eggs and one other a clutch of eggs from a friend with a commercial egg laying unit.

I seem to get through a huge amount of eggs every day for cooking. What with cakes, ice cream (I have long term borrowed my son in law’s ice cream maker), Yorkshire puddings, ordinary puddings and dippy eggs at breakfast time, the egg count is huge.

Our veins are probably clogged up with cholesterol but I do not see how I cannot manage with using eggs on a daily basis. So I need more hens. Although I have bought in point of lay hens previously, the fowl that settle and lay best seem to be those that are farm reared. Born and bred in situ as it were.

Our herd, also all apart from the bull, born and bred at home, are now outside. It went well this year. John always likes to make sure that there are plenty of staff on hand when we turn the cows out, and this year, he also drafted in friends from the next village to add to family members lining the route from foldyard to field.

Preparation is all and the sets of gates that he bought a few weeks ago have proved invaluable. They make loading up cattle for market far less of a hazard than it was. Where the cattle could, if they had a mind, jump or push over the bales used to guide them into the trailer, the gates, at five foot high, are insurmountable. Literally.

John slotted one gate onto the next until a row of them lined the route out of the farm and onto the road. All the cows had to do was observe their highway code, look left and right, check nothing was coming, and then walk across in an orderly fashion.

Dream on. The gates were in place, but the cows had been revving themselves up since dawn. How they knew that this was turn out day I have not a clue. I suspect the older ones have a collective memory of being herded into the silage area whilst the blockages are erected and people standing around with anxious faces hoping they are not going to be trampled to death by a stampede.

My friend had seen only the previous day an entire herd heading off down a country lane, tails up, full gallop, farmer in pursuit.

Clearly things had not gone to plan. Luckily for us they did. For once all the calves hot hoofed after their Mums and none of them got left behind as has happened in other years. For ten minutes the herd rocketed round the first field, checking for any gaps in the hedge for a breakout, but then peacefully settled down to the serious business of eating that delicious fresh (and very well watered in spite of the “drought”) grass.

Mrs Downs Diary