The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Our favourite old lady


Carol aged two with Mrs Boss, Mrs Squeaky and Thumper (her step mum)

Carol aged two with Mrs Boss, Mrs Squeaky and Thumper (her step mum)

I haven’t written about our chickens for ages. We still have them – I’d hate to give them up as they are interesting and fun to keep and some do become friends. Each has her own personality and a particular place in an ever changing pecking order. They have their friendships and their tiffs. When I’m working in the kitchen garden I am aware, amused and often shocked by their antics. They can be very cruel and astonishingly kind in a chicken sort of way.

Do you remember when I discovered that Baby was not allowed to eat and drink when the rest of the flock when they were up and about? He was quickly moved into his own apartment and flourished.

Carol was the first chick that we hatched from an egg. Being a first born she was closely observed and enjoyed as she grew up, changing from fluffy chick to straggly vulture and eventually a fine plump Maran hen that laid enormous brown eggs. Her bantam step-mum was not a maternal type but would eventually give in and help Carol when she got into scrapes as a young pullet. I remember the time when Carol flew onto the high roof of the chicken house and then lost her nerve about completing the round trip down. Her mum flew up to join her wayward pullet and they swooped down together.

When Carol was still young but already twice the size of her mother I was amazed by this mother’s kindness. By mistake, I had closed the door to the ark where they lived. So the two hens had to go up into the scary big girl’s dormitory in main chicken house to roost. Walking down the garden I was alerted by a constant fearful shrieking that went on and on. I quickly opened the door to the chicken house and found Carol calling with alarm on the perch. Her mum was beside her with a comforting wing over Carol’s back. This was quite a stretch for her mum, who had to stand on tip toes to reach. So altruistic and touching.

As Carol grew and grew she would thunder up and down the run to claim the tastiest morsels – a Maran has a lot of bargability when it comes to elbowing through a group of bantams. She was pretty intelligent and nosey too. Within a year she had crowned herself Queen Bee and head of the pecking order.

Then one summer’s day, when she was seven and still laying eggs, the Italian Leghorns arrived. I kept the Leghorns separate from the rest of the flock until they had grown big enough to stick up for themselves. From her side of the wire, Carol watched them preening and sunbathing. They largely ignored Carol and the rest of the chickens until the barricade came down.

The Italian Leghorn cockerels clearly weren’t very keen on the reign of Queen Carol and soon things moved rapidly to a republic with Alfonso in charge. The gentle Massimo was his ADC and Carol retreated to third in the pecking order. A rather galumping hen she learnt to rush rapidly away when they were feeling amorous.

It must have been a happy day for Carol when the cockerels suddenly vanished without a trace one night last August. After a few days she regained her spot as Numero Uno. She was The One to eat and drink first and she kept the flock in line with a hefty iron claw.  A couple of days ago I noticed that Carol was a bit slow to come and get her early morning grain. This afternoon I discovered that our favourite old lady had died.

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  1. Lucy @ Smallest Smallholding

    Sounds like Queen Carol had a long reign and a lovely life – if only all hens could enjoy such a wonderful existence as yours. RIP old girl x

  2. Sorry to read about Carol but she had a good long life and was much loved. You can’t really ask for more, can you?

  3. Such a moving tribute, and it’s really heartening to see so many caring replies to your post. I wonder who will move up to the top spot next?

  4. Michelle in NZ

    Carol, your were so looked after and loved, may you pass this on wherever your spririt may be now be.

    Sending much care and love your way, dear Fiona,
    Michelle and Zebby Cat, xxx and warm purrrrumbles

  5. Tamar@StarvingofftheLand

    I’m having my own personal moment of silence for Carol. Your telling of her story encapsulates everything that’s good about barnyard society. That you give your animals a good life, that they give back with eggs and entertainment, and that they do eventually die and make way for a new generation.

  6. Adds a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘I knew her since she was an egg’!
    You must feel very sad, but I have a secret feeling she’s having a sly chickeny smile to herself somewhere in chicken heaven thinking ‘hhhmmm I lasted longer than those italians!!’ 🙂

  7. Kooky Girl

    Aw… I’m quite upset about that ! What a lovely, sweet life she had. Lucky chicken. :o)

  8. Patricia

    RIP Carol, dear friend and chicken… or dear chicken friend…

    I love hearing about your chickens as I’ve not been around chicks or chickens since I was about 7 or 8 and an aunt living nearby raised them… I was terrified of them and refused to eat chicken for about 20 years until my daughter was about 4 or 5 years old and I realized she was being deprived of eating it also… and through visiting friends, had grown to love the taste…

    Through your blogging, I’ve grown to love these feathered friends and have worried about and mourned over them as you post…

    I eat chicken but not any I can call by name…

  9. What a beautiful tribute to Carol. We have ducks and geese but it’s the chickens that have all the character (well perhaps apart from Boris the Muscovey but he’s another story)

  10. Your stories are always so well told and make such interesting reading. I was so pleased to read about the chickens again but very sad about Carol. I have always followed their stories, especially the late Mrs.Squeaky-Clean and the unforgettable and amazing Mother, Mrs.Boss.
    Wendy x

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