Listening to the news makes me wonder if anyone can make any sense out of the world, right now. Here in our little country good manners among people seem to be vanishing rapidly and we are turning into a grumpy nation. Being polite to your fellow man does not take that much energy, you would think.
In our henhouse things are moving in the opposite direction. We have been practicing politeness and sharing and it looks like the hens have understood what we have been doing. Hens are much smarter than we think. They remember yesterday, they can learn a daily routine and they do know right from wrong. The problem with hens can be their extreme stubborn streak.
As I have been telling you, Darya the hen is clearly the lowest hen in the pecking order. Lina used to be head hen but lost her spot when Waldemar the cockerel died. Henrika is back and she is a kind hen but her friends chased both Darya and now Lina if they got a chance. So I have been meddling with their group dynamics, just a tad.
Lina and Darya got a secluded breakfast served for some weeks. Then I added some more hens to the party. When the new members could not behave themselves, I put them back in with the bigger group. After a few evictions they got the idea of things and more friends could be added. Now Darya has got two friends that follow her out into the snow, in the mornings. Lina is still quite thin although she eats like a horse so I don't let her out into the cold. She would follow the small team if she could.
Some of the arctic explorers let me carry them back home after a successful dig at the compost. Darya is an old hand at riding on my arm, Lotta clings on for dear life and Henrika still prefers to lead the procession. If it's really windy I get to help her out but her legs are meant for walking.... Lina will never be a hen that takes kindly to being handled by us. She is nervy and thinks my tasks are to feed, help and clean out and that's it. She is very social but we have to keep some distance to her.
The hens still chase each other at times but the ganging up on one particular member of their team seems to have stopped. It's also lovely to see Darya getting friends, but she wants to spend the nights sleeping in the sheep pen. Most nights Eric joins her for company.
Our lovely sheep has been a great help in training our stubborn hens. Whenever the going got a bit tuff all I had to do was to open the door to the sheep pen and calmness returned. The hens adore our sheep and Mindy, Mandy, Molly and My think the world of them. Molly can stand for hours watching them and Mindy still loves to blow on her feathery friends. (They pretend to get frightened but know it's a game....) Eric is the only one who still thinks the sheep might be dangerous so he keeps an eye on them at all times. Monty bobs in and out amongst the sheep and finds them handy for climbing. Eric will also get there because there is nothing more calming than a flock of sheep for the nerves. He was already fine but after he's collision with one of the sheep, he got back to being a bit jumpy.
The winter months are the time when we hang out more, the sheep and I. They crave the company and I brush their coats regularly. Mindy, Molly and My stand in a tight group, so I end up brushing all of them at the same time. Mindy blows into my ear, My stands still and takes it seriously. Molly leans on me until I fall over. Mandy has started her own system. She eats away while the rest of us make a bit of a muddle of the whole thing, but still enjoy ourselves. When we are done, Mandy steps forward and I groom her in an orderly fashion, no messing about. She does worry so when things are not done the proper way....
A few evenings ago I was in a slight hurry to get on with things. It does not happen often but this particular evening was a snow clearing evening and I was needed outside with a shovel in my hand. So after grooming and hugging the first lot of sheep friends I put the brushes away, turned the evening light on and said goodnight. Then I saw one very sad sheep looking straight at me wondering what was going on. So lights back on, hens upset wondering if the disco was in the village, brushes out and back to being social. Poor Mandy was very offended and I ended up being very late, shovelling snow. Sheep need company and they are very social animals. Thankfully I am very seldom in a hurry while tending to the animals. It would not do...
Sheep are animals that need their flock to feel safe. Dogs are also not meant to be left alone for hours on end. They need their flock to feel happy. The flock can be their family members or other dogs but they need company to feel well. Horses would certainly loose the plot if they were left on their own for long and humans are the same, I think. I just found out that some species of termite mate for life and that one queen termite can form a whole colony with her king male. Hard work but lovely, in a way...
A blog about a small holding in Southern Finland. Each original story is accompanied by a stunning watercolour illustration or resplendent photographs.