To a celebratory birthday supper last night with friends who asked after the hens. The cull took place only a couple of days ago, so I haven’t told anyone yet. “How could you?” “But they all had names…” “You must be so sad,” they said.
Yes, of course I’m sad – and strangely unmoored without the daily routine of feeding them, locking them up at night, and just nipping out to see what they’re up to. But you can’t live with diseased hens. Sadder still is to see them sicken and die, and I can’t restock while whatever bug – Infectious bronchitis? Mycoplasma gallisepticum? Avian rhino tracheitis? is lurking around the coop. By the way, if you want to scare yourself, check out the poultry sites Poultry Keeper and Chicken Vet – and of course the Poultry Club, which list the various life-threatening bugs that attack hens.
Yesterday I rinsed down and sloshed Jeyes Fluid all around the feeders and the hen coop to disinfect everything, and have left the doors open to air it out. Here it is, the mighty hen palace (from Smiths Sectional, designed for
18 hens, although I have never had more than six at one time). The next job is to paint it with Cuprinol, which I hope will destroy the germs. At the very least it will keep me busy, and possibly help preserve it.
So yes, I miss them, Vindaloo and Tikka, Grable, Missie, Betty, Masala and Madam. But disloyal though it seems, I am already planning another visit to a hen breeder. The question is… hybrids, or pure breds? And crucially, is two weeks really enough time to clear this ghastly bug from the site?
There is a lively hen-keeping online community that’s worth tapping into – many in the US. My three favourites are Down the Lane, a friendly UK-based forum; Backyard Chickens (USA) and the rather prosaically named Success with Poultry – this link takes you to & Rules for Keeping hens, rule No 1, don’t name them. That, in my case, will never happen.