The Cottage Smallholder


stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

The lost chick

The French egg cupboard in our kitchen

The French egg cupboard in our kitchen

Recently I was looking after TCL’s smallholding for a couple of weeks. Here there are chickens, ducks, loads of fish, a rabbit and a cat. And of course those horrible worm eating turtles that S loves. The other pets are collected by S’s mum and holiday by the seaside in Suffolk.

As you know TCL lives in a beautiful spot, on the edge of the village boundary. The garden looks over a large paddock – filled with mares and foals at the moment. The broad range of chickens includes beautiful Sumatra chickens. These chickens are not good layers and their slim shape means that they are not a meat bird. But chicken aficionados prize them highly.

The day TCL and S left for the sun one black Sumatra hen hatched four adorable chicks. These were moved to their own apartment in an old high legged rabbit hutch.

“The hutch is well out of the way of predators. But what happens if a chick falls out?”
Oh fateful words.

Mrs Sumatra was a great mother. Immediately she heard my walking down the stone steps towards her apartment she would cluck loudly to call her precious chicks under her wing. Even though I was feeding them and making sure that they had every creature comfort that a small chick could want – I was still the enemy.

On the last day I spotted that the water bowl had been upturned and was right at the back of the hutch. I put might hand gently inside. There was an immediate agitation of mother hen staccato clucks and teeny chick shrieks.

In an instant a chick had leapt from the open door and was on the ground. Never being one for fast reactions I just watched it in shocked surprise. When I leant down to scoop it up it shot into a mess of undergrowth and wide gauge wire netting and vanished.

Now that little chick moved fast and an amazing instinct kicked it. It remained silent but always ahead of my hand. Every time I left the location of the apartment, the chick returned and bayed beneath the hutch. Even if I crept into view it would rush away and hide.

The shrieks cut right through me. These cries made the chick so vulnerable to predators.
“If only I’d just left the water bowl at the back and found a new one?”
I thought of Malcolm Monteith immediately.

I hung around doing the watering. Watching, listening and planning. Perhaps I could trap the chick under the car rug. I sat down trying to blend into the woodland with the rug to hand but the chick didn’t come.

Danny came up and we both tried to corral the chick. I could sense it watching. It didn’t appear. As I drove D back to our cottage we could hear it shrieking beneath the hutch. A desperate cry.

That evening I returned at dusk, hoping to find the chick asleep. But I opened the car door to a hollow, errie silence. Perhaps the chick had been eaten already? There was not a trace of it on the ground beneath the hutch..

The next morning I was on the phone to TCL. They had heard the chick and hadn’t been able to catch it. Suddenly she announced that S (who is a bit of an animal whisperer) had found the chick and it was back with Mrs Sumatra. Safe and sound.


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6 Comments

  1. Michelle from Oregon

    Finished reading the story to find I’d been holding my breath!
    Glad all are safe and sound!

  2. Juanita

    Goodness…that was dramatic. I’m so glad for a happy ending to that one 🙂

  3. mandi

    I looked after my friends cats when she took her kids on holiday, over a few years twice when she was away 2 of them died on me 🙁 one was in the garden close to death when I got there one day and another year the other I found actually dead round the side of her sofa. She eventually reached a time when all her felines had gone and was taking a holiday and still asked if I could check the house whilst she was away. When she got home her daughter had been growing a geranium on the kitchen window which I had failed to spot and it had died from lack of water. Her daughter rather annoyed exclaimed ‘ aunty mandi must have killed my plant mum cos we didn’t have any cats left this time!!!!’ Just call me the cat killer :S

  4. danast

    Oh my heart was in my mouth till I got to the happy ending. Thank goodness for it. You would have felt dreadful if it had died. I know how nerve wracking it is to be responsible for others folk’s animals and I have to really trust the ones I leave my animals with.

  5. Phew! I love a happy ending!!

  6. Paula

    Caring for someone else’s animals is always nerve wracking for me. I have a hard time trusting others with my dogs (for a good reason, which is why we have them kenneled when we go away).

    Glad it all turned out alright!

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