Graham Turner: New faces ruffle some feathers

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I don’t like to burden other people with my problems, but we’ve had a fraught week in the Turner household - feathers have been well and truly ruffled.

Raised voices, sulking, a storming out and the threat of violence have given us some anxious moments and sleepless nights.

It would be easy to blame the youngsters, but on this occasion I think the fault can be laid at the door of an individual who should know better.

Fanny is a pensioner in the chicken world. She has outlived her companions who were bought at the same time and since last summer she has had sole occupancy of the hen house and garden.

So when I introduced three new young friends on Saturday, I was hoping for a warm greeting and fearing – at worst – a frosty reception.

I wasn’t prepared (despite a light-hearted warning from the farmer) for outright hostility and some very aggressive behaviour.

The newcomers, Hetty, Betty and Lettie (lazy, but catchy), didn’t really help themselves. Hetty and Betty proved to be very shy and dashed straight into the hen house and refused to come out while Lettie, pretty in white with long, shapely legs, took the opposite approach and decided she wanted the rule the roost – not a good idea when you’re up against a big, fat old bird who, when riled, looks like a Spanish galleon in full sail.

It was during the ensuing fracas that Lettie discovered she could ‘fly’ and the fence which has successfully contained our hens for several years proved to be no obstacle.

An attempt to catch her in the neighbour’s well-manicured garden simply sent the horror fluttering into the next garden along – less manicure, more jungle.

Joined by Mrs T armed with a net and some bamboo canes for prodding the shrubbery, we finally cornered our errant bird and returned her to our garden where she had to stay in solitary confinement while I netted over the enclosure to make it escape proof.

Since the ‘introduction’ we’ve tried to keep them apart so they can get to know each other more gradually, but they do have to share the hen house at night. Luckily, it seems that hens don’t like scrapping in the dark, so they get a good night’s sleep – while I lie awake worrying if I’ve done the right thing.