We have six grown up hens at the moment. Pippi, Lotta, Ida, Lina, Henrika and Sabine. Four names come from Astrid Lindgren's books (the author of the Pippi Longstocking books). We also have two chicks that arrived in the spring. They grew so quickly and now fly short, wobbly distances. They got their names from the lovely artist who is illustrating my little ramblings. Darya and Dimi. Darya was the brave one and Dimi was the one trying to keep up. After a few weeks Dimi took over and has not looked back, since.
Waldemar, the rooster, was still with us when they arrived and was extremely frightened of them. After a week or so he started to see the funny side of the two, small feathery bundles and found them a little peculiar instead. Probably because they sounded like diminutive budges and danced around, wherever they went. Walle was used to screeching hens that mostly stomp around him and behaved more like crows.
Dimi woke up one morning with the notion, that by hanging out with Waldemar, she would automatically be part of the cool gang. Poor Walle did not know what to do. Wherever he went, this diminutive chick kept following him. In the end he had the idea of feeding her, so he picked up a beetle and flicked it at a very surprised Dimi who was a trooper. She turned the, still alive, beetle this way and that and tried to guess which part she was supposed to eat. In the end she gave Waldemar a stern look and walked away. The beetle walked the other way and Walle just stood there, feeling free from clingy small birds. He was a kind soul and always nice to the little once.
We got an outside cage for the hens when they arrived. Domestic birds have to be locked up in the springtime, as long as it takes for the migrating wild birds to get back to Finland. It has something to do with the bird influenza scare we had years ago. It was an expensive cage and it is about as ugly as it gets. The original purpose of the thing is for dogs to exercise in, so it is also big - and extremely empty. Our hens can't use it, they say. Being a hen living with us means that they have to patrol the grounds, keep magpies in check and hang out with their friends, the sheep. So they cannot stay in one place for very long. Some days they go for long walks in the forest and all you can hear is loud chicken chatting. Other days are spent in brooks and that means very cold birds in the evening (and that leads to a messy lot to clean up the next morning. Bird tummies go funny, if cold.) I like to share these things...
But the best bit of being a hen in Stoneback farm seems to be that they can spend hours on our step talking to Mr Chip, decorating our mat and eating sunflower and sesame seeds to their hearts content. A bowl of water and some sunshine and we have a group of very happy hens. But they do lay eggs. Light green and palest brown ones that have such a thick shell that it makes baking a challenge for mind and eye coordination. And the yolk is yellow like the sun... Our happy, athletic hens creates small, lovely eggs that make even pancakes yellow. (It's all the grass they eat that gives the healthy colour and that's why we should stop keeping birds in cages, full stop). Some days we get six eggs but we never know where the eggs are, and that's all part of the fun. Yesterday one egg was found in the sheep loose-box, one in the hay and four eggs lay on the stable sofa, where the chicks have been sleeping. We have an Easter egg hunt every day... I think it's because our hens are an old Finnish breed, dating back to the Bronze Age. They probably have a strong set of wild bird genes still in the mix. That might be why they are so active, strong willed and peculiar at times. And why they have green feet and orange coloured claws. Very Dino chic.... That also inspires them to create an egg laying adventure, so our 15 nice egg laying coops stay empty. One was used every night, though. Waldemar slept in that one, because he did not like the draft from the air vent, bless him.
Today I arrived home from work and six hens, our new friend Monty and a happy dog greeted me outside our house. I don't think there can be a sweeter way to be greeted home, apart from an additional sheep, or four. But they were busy guarding our two chicks amongst the nettles and had no time for meets and greets.
Text by Nina
A blog about a small holding in Southern Finland. Each original story is accompanied by a stunning watercolour illustration or resplendent photographs.