The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Sometimes there is a balance

Photo: new leghorn chicks - 1 day old

Photo: new leghorn chicks - 1 day old

This morning I woke late, having snoozed past the alarm. I now know that a snooze of an hour or so is a dangerous path to consider. Especially as I have chickens, dogs and Danny to feed and water, plus I need to shower and dress and check the greenhouse and heated indoor propagator and go to work.

The morning buzzes with questions. Have I made the thermos and lunch for work? Will Danny discover his breakfast toast after his conference call? When will our leeks finally germinate?

I shot down to the chicken run and saw a fluffed up body in the bottom floor of the hen house. It was Mrs Squeaky Clean. The little dead body was quite cold and stiff.

Mrs Squeaky was a pekin bantam. A sister of Mrs Boss. But Mrs S was not interested in raising a brood. If she had been human she would have been a true Clairn’s girl. She was 98% focussed on her appearance. Her feathers were always whiter than white. She rarely appeared in the muddy run and preferred to roost well away from any chance of getting the teeniest bit dirty.

I walked back to the cottage with a heavy heart.
“I’m afraid there’s bad news. Mrs Squeaky is dead.”
Danny spun round in his chair.
“Oh no! We’ve lost four chickens in the last few months. I suppose that our older chickens will be dying now. They must be at least seven years old?”
“Two were quite young when they died.”
“Some hens are delicate and susceptible to bugs and viruses, I guess.”

Then within the hour an email arrived from Caroline. Two chicks had hatched from the clutch that they are raising for us . By dusk the count was four. We are delighted and so appreciate Caroline’s generosity.

“It’s odd,” said Danny, “when you buried your mum’s dog Daisy Beatyl, our cockerel Beatyl hatched on the same day. Mrs Squeaky dies and that day we hear that we have four new healthy chicks.”

This evening we buried Mrs Squeaky in a quiet, shady part of the garden. And then celebrated the arrival of the new chicks.

It is a circle.  Death and life.  Rocky and amazing.

  Leave a reply


  1. Amanda

    The circle of life. So true Fiona… I’m glad you received news of the new chicks just at the right time. x

  2. Pamela

    Like Magic Cochin, when I was looking to see what your new chickens will look like, I spotted the Italian connection and wondered about naming them after places in Italy. My suggestions would be Lucca and Siena, which are in Tuscany and from Puglia, Brindisi and Bari. The last name I thought would work well for a cockerel, just in case you don’t get 4 girls.

  3. Jackie

    I can’t bear it when the bantys die.
    Our main flock of hens are uber free range, and truth to tell, they chance life and death, they are the F1 drivers of the chicken world, they work hard, they lay hard, they live on the edge. Extreme chickens.
    But the children’s bantys are little friends, protected at every turn, named and loved and treasured.
    I’m so happy you’re new dynasty is coming along well. Maybe they should all have names with a covert Squeaky connection? Like Bubble. :0) Who will always, in your mind, talk like Jane Horrocks…..

  4. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Michelle

    It’s horrid finding that a hen has died. It’s always a shock. But our elderly maidens are getting quite long in the tooth (seven years old now) so it’s fine that they move to that great chicken meadow in the sky.

    Thanks for dropping by. Much appreciated. Love your suggestions for names.

    Hello Natasha

    We’re sad about Mrs Squeaky but delighted with the prospect of new arrivals in three month’s time.

    Hi Pamela

    It’s scary to think that our first hens have been with us for seven years now. The years seem to have shot by in a flash. We had no idea how entertaining they would be. We just thought “Fresh eggs.”

    I love my flock. I enjoy every aspect of caring for them, even cleaning out the hen house. When I’m working in the kitchen garden, I’m entertained by their antics. I’d be very sad indeed if I had to give up keeping hens.

    Hello Veronica

    Mrs Squeaky was a true individual. When Mrs Boss died I became much fonder of Mrs Squeaky – this strain of white and black ruffed Pekins turned out to be real characters.

    Yes it’s great that the new chicks have hatched and four is the perfect number for us!

    Hi Magic Cochin

    Love your names. Valentina is superb. Danny speaks very good Italian which might comein handy over the coming months.

    Thanks for dropping by.

    Hello S.O.L.

    Welcome back!

    Yes it’s sad about Mrs Squeaky but we are thrilled with the prospect of new chicks and this has salved everything. We are so lucky that Caroline offered her hen Rusty to incubate a clutch of eggs.

  5. S.o.L

    Oh Fiona I am so sorry.

    feel better both of you. The new broad will surely give entertainment, as all young things do.

    Just catching up with your blog now I am back.

  6. magic cochin

    How sad to lose Mrs Squeaky Clean. BUT new chicks are an exciting new start 🙂

    Leghorns – aren’t they orignally an Italian breed? Slim and nippy on their feet. Sophia, Maria, Antonia, Valentina … (adapt with suitable suffix if male)


  7. Veronica

    Sorry to hear about Mrs Squeaky — you have been having a rough time on the livestock/deadstock front. But it’s nice that your baby chicks were hatched just at the same time, to give you hope for the future — looking forward to seeing them!

  8. Pamela

    It is hard to be philosophical about the cycle of life and death when they death part relates to a much loved part of your family. I’m sorry about Mrs Squeaky Clean but excited about the new arrivals. I’ll have to check out what Leghorns look like so see if I can come up with some names, although perhaps they have to arrive at the cottage and show their characters (and gender!) before the naming can begin. Perhaps one of them should be called Caroline?

  9. Natasha

    awww congrats on the newbies and sorry for your loss………xx

  10. michelle sheets

    I’m so sorry for your loss Fiona. Sometimes it just feels like they come in a streak (or threes, knock on wood). The new babies are a very nice way to help get past the saddness.

    Hmm, you’ll need 4 names now….how about to honor Mrs. Squeaky Clean…..Sparkle, Shine, Shimmer, and Sheen? Lots of S’s, maybe too much. How about Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme?

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