Jo Bar­low

A spe­cial mo­ment as an ex-bat fi­nally learns to sing…

Your Chickens - - Contents -

Hens’ egg songs

Be­fore I had my girls, I never knew that chick­ens sang an egg song - that daily vo­cal cel­e­bra­tion of the ar­rival of their egg - and was ini­tially quite alarmed by the noise they made af­ter the Great Event. But now, hear­ing their melo­di­ous mas­ter­pieces is as much a part of our morn­ing rou­tine as de-poo­ing the coop and hang­ing up their cab­bages. Each girl has her own spe­cial egg song and even if I am in­side the Hu­man Coop I know ex­actly who is singing. Iona, for ex­am­ple, spends a long time do­ing her “I am go­ing to lay an egg” song run­ning in and out of the coop, and then her “I am lay­ing my egg” song, fol­lowed by a lengthy and loud “I have laid my egg” song. It is a good job our neigh­bour is deaf.

But some­thing I have no­ticed is that new ex-bats do not sing. Their egg lay­ing is a very quick and mech­a­nised process, some­thing not re­ally to be shouted about. Com­mer­cial hens never see their eggs when they are laid, so are de­nied the right to sit on them, ten­derly tuck­ing them un­der their breast, ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the feel­ings of moth­er­hood if only for a mo­ment. My M girls, for ex­am­ple, ini­tially laid very quickly, leav­ing the nest box im­me­di­ately, with­out so much as a mur­mur. How­ever, as they ob­served and heard the older girls, they started to change, tak­ing a lit­tle longer over the whole lay­ing process and sit­ting awhile on the egg af­ter it was laid – some­thing that must have felt quite mar­vel­lous. In­spired by the other hens, Miffy, Margot and Martha all quickly adopted an egg song, al­beit with vary­ing de­grees of suc­cess, but a song it most cer­tainly was. How­ever, lit­tle Milly, bot­tom of the peck­ing or­der, didn’t fol­low her sis­ters’ ex­am­ple and re­mained silent through­out. How­ever, one morn­ing, I heard what I thought was a chicken be­ing stran­gled and rushed out­side only to see my sweet Milly proudly de­scend­ing from the nest box, singing her lit­tle heart out. It might not have been the most tune­ful egg song in the world but Milly had fi­nally de­cided her egg was a thing of beauty and was rightly very proud of her­self.

But she was not just cel­e­brat­ing her egg, she was cel­e­brat­ing her free­dom. No longer was she a by-prod­uct of a com­mer­cial sys­tem, now she was a unique and ex­tra­or­di­nary chicken; she had a name, she was loved, she had laid her mar­vel­lous egg in the com­fort and pri­vacy of a nest and she wanted to tell the whole world about it.

Her egg song may still need a lit­tle prac­tice so it sounds more like a sonata than a stran­gu­la­tion but Milly has a long re­tire­ment ahead of her to per­fect her song. So sing loud and proud dar­ling girl.

“She was not just cel­e­brat­ing her egg, she was cel­e­brat­ing her free­dom” ABOVE AND BE­LOW LEFT: Jo Bar­low’s ex-bat hen Milly

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