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Hope – the little hen with a big personality

Hope and Peace

Hope & Peace

The last post that I made on the blog was about Hope – a favourite hen.

She didn’t jump in my arms when I approached. She kept her distance. She knew that she was special. There was something in the strut of that diminutive bird.

Just a few weeks ago I was estimating her age as I watched her pecking her corn.

She must have been at least six or seven years old but she was still out in the run looking superb and doing her own thing.

Once in a while she still laid a small white egg –  they were the sweetest and best eggs that I’ve ever tasted.

Hens stop laying regularly after two or three years, so each tiny white egg was a special gift.

She had been a Christmas present – originally one of two. Her sister never moved a feather without checking with Hope first.

We named her sister Peace and she was a sweetheart. Sadly Peace was five short of a six pack and died in the first hard frosts of that year.

When I scooped up Peace, Hope didn’t ruffle a feather. She just kept busy in her own – a feisty little individual who was always alone from that point.

Hope just didn’t have that ‘flock’ mentality.

Although she could be maddening at times, she got under my skin and I loved her.

If you keep hens you will know that some become  more special than others. Of course, as with every living being in your care you need to give them all an equal amount of attention but some divert you more than others.

A couple of weeks ago Hope didn’t come out for breakfast. When I searched the hen houses were empty.

Eventually I found her. She was lying in the run, in the mud.

Just a small heap of feathers and a body so small that I could almost hold it in my palm.

She is buried in a nest of rosemary and marjoram.

She’s gone but every time that I feed the hens I still find myself looking out for her.


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  1. smallholdingsister

    So sorry to hear about Hope. Xxx

  2. Sue Asher

    Dear Fiona, I TOTALLY agree with you, we have some very special “lady lays” as we like to call them. I eat no animal products aside from the beautiful eggs our free-range, totally spoiled chickadees lay. Chooka came to us last year Sept 2014 as a thoroughly hopeless case, an ex-battery that had been sold off for cheap food at the “old” age of 72 weeks – some of my chickens are now into their 5th year. She had no neck or tail feathers, VERY long white claws( which I trimmed with the dog’s nail clippers) and a nervous tic, as well as agoraphobia. Having been cage bound her entire short, miserable existence, she never even moved for the first week.
    We kept her quarantined away from our healthy ladies, in the vegie patch and she didn’t even eat the vegies! She had no idea that she was supposed to.
    Within a few days she was starting to develop normal chicken behaviour, scratching the ground even though she seemed to have no idea why, and looking at me with a questioning gaze when I encouraged her to eat shredded greens in my hand.
    A year on and her feathers have totally regrown, although its taken a long time, and she is the most delightful little presence, making visits into the house several times a day, calling for me and coming often to sit nearby:) She is very loved.I don’t know how long we will have her for, but every day she makes me smile.
    Recently, another old chicken of mine passed on, she faded, day by day, often lying on the sun on the back door step waiting for me to feed her a handful of her favourite and VERY expensive organic hempseeds, so, one morning when she failed to appear, we knew her time had come. We buried her under one of her favourite scratching patches under the Olive tree, and scattered a handful of hemps seeds into her grave.
    So sorry that you lost your special Hope.. much love, Sue

  3. PipneyJane

    Fiona, I so sorry to hear about the loss of your hen. Your love for her shines through your post.

    May I add my voice to the chorus saying how much we have missed your posts? Welcome back.


  4. Rebecca Milsom

    Fiona, I kept hens involuntarily and their humble, amusing lifestyles kept me alive, I think. A month after my husband died from esophageal cancer leaving me to care for our two young daughters, their nanny’s mother presented me with four hens and a little hen house. It was the need to tend to the hens that got me out of bed in the morning, not my children. Of course I loved my daughters, but at 7 and 12 years old they could feed themselves. It amused me to see your comment equating to ‘equal opportunities’, yet some hens become special. I named all of my hens ‘Millie’, the diminutive of my husband’s surname, and they quickly learned to come running as I walked down the garden singing, ‘Millie, Millie, Millie… ‘. I hadn’t a clue about how to look after them and when one escaped, I would chase it, then back off, afraid to touch her. I found two long canes and, brandishing them like swords, used them as extensions to my arms which aids were enormously helpful! My hens grew in number to around 50 at the height of that period of my life as rumour spread that I would house those who were past their usefulness as layers. They always laid for me when they had space to roam and leftover basmati rice and spaghetti to squabble over. Our language is peppered with allusions to chickens. Off to work, but will return. Do you make bread, Fiona? I teach artisan bread-making and mindfulness combined…

  5. Lorraine

    Just read this post and cried my eyes out – so sorry for your loss1

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