Jo Bar­low

Milly the ex-bat has cre­ated her own lit­tle sanc­tu­ary

Your Chickens - - Contents - Jo Bar­low is ABOVE: Milly - vul­ner­a­ble IN­SET: Her se­cret nest

Batty about ex-bats

You would think, would you not, that a beau­ti­ful, be­spoke, re­cy­cled plas­tic coop, with knicker-deep bed­ding, would be enough for some girls. Crowd­funded and paid for by the love and kind­ness of many won­der­ful souls who sup­port the girls of Effie’s Gar­den, our coop is truly a thing of won­der. But for Milly … it just doesn’t cut the mus­tard when it is time to lay her egg.

Milly, if you re­mem­ber, is the lit­tle hen who found her voice some time af­ter res­cue and now sings me daily egg songs cel­e­brat­ing The Great Event. How­ever, over 18 months free, she is still bot­tom hen of our lit­tle mixed flock and, as any­one with banties will tell you, they are for­ever broody dur­ing the sum­mer. As we have four – two res­cued friz­zles and two of the orig­i­nal three chicks who looked af­ter Effie in her do­tage – the coop al­ways seems to be full. Con­se­quently, poor Milly al­ways seems to be chased out.

So where can a girl go to en­joy her spe­cial mo­ment in peace? Why, a spe­cial place of course!

I first be­came aware of a pos­si­ble al­ter­na­tive lay­ing place when the num­ber of daily egg songs didn’t equal the num­ber of daily eggs. As there is only one egg a day be­ing laid, this didn’t in­volve any­thing too com­pli­cated on the maths front!


Af­ter un­suc­cess­fully search­ing for the spot, and keen to prove a hu­man can oc­ca­sion­ally out­wit a hen, I cun­ningly watched Milly early the next morn­ing to see where she was head­ing. It turns out her Spe­cial Place is tucked up un­der a droopy shrub by the side of the lit­tle wildlife pond. Af­ter she emerged, triumphant again, I in­ves­ti­gated fur­ther and found the miss­ing eggs, all nes­tled down in a well-tram­pled spot; a very heart­warm­ing and ten­der sight.

So now, af­ter check­ing the nest­boxes each day, I also go to the Spe­cial Place, where, with­out fail, there will be a per­fect Milly egg wait­ing for me.

Eggs aside, my in­ves­ti­ga­tions were ac­tu­ally for­tu­itous as, one even­ing, the head count re­vealed one less girl than nor­mal … cue a pan­icked search for the er­rant Milly. As I called her, I could hear her re­ply to me and her gen­tle bwarks led me to the Spe­cial Place, the shrub wob­bling in­crim­i­nat­ingly. There she was, very pleased with her­self, all tucked up, fan­cy­ing a night un­der the stars. I think not Milly! Af­ter a sneaky cud­dle and a stern talk­ing to on the dan­gers of Mr Fox, she was tucked up with her sis­ters and safely locked away for the night.

The na­ture of those hu­mans who res­cue ex-bats of­ten seems to re­veal a fond­ness for the vul­ner­a­ble, a wish to nur­ture and pro­tect the most frag­ile. And, of all my girls, as bot­tom hen, Milly is that most vul­ner­a­ble and frag­ile girl. Con­se­quently, she is my spe­cial girl, so it seems only fit­ting that she has her own Spe­cial Place.

She is my spe­cial girl, so it seems only fit­ting that she has her own spe­cial place

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