We were late. My plans to get to the poultry auction early long since scuppered by sproglets with extreme cases of easterholidayitus, the symptoms of which cause children to cling to duvets and thrust out bottom lips.
It was almost ten o'clock by the time we parked and ran to the livestock market. I had a tight hold of the 6yo and 8yo's hands, dodging cattle trucks and trailers and noting that the sales of Land Rovers in the 1960's must have been awesome.
Peering into sheds we decided against purchasing a flock of sheep, besides they wouldn't fit into our cardboard boxes.
Eventually we found our shed.
A scene from Bedlam: The large metallic structure was filled to the brim with noise and bustle pre-auction. Hands-in-their-overalls types with weathered faces greeted other similar men, all looked out of place. I imagine they'd be happier on a hillside rather than in the centre of Hereford on such a hot day. The wall-to-wall cages were brimming with feisty cockerels that crewed their manhood, while below them, demur hens popped out eggs to prove their worth. In the centre of the room another structure housed eggs of every size and colour and cardboard boxes, (long since emptied of wine, crisps or pasta) housed tiny chicks, ducklings or unknown fowl.
We quickly registered and collected our bidding number. Excusing our way through the throng we peered in at cages that might contain our new hens; the silkies. By all accounts Silkies are great broody hens and we had decided to raise our own chicks at The Larches, more like Archie.
The temptation to buy all the chicks in the sale was enormous and the little yellow ducklings were desperately appealing. [But I was determined to resist the ducklings in order to save our wildlife pond from plundering.]
In the end I narrowed our lots down to just two Silkie girls and some boxes of black chicks called Black Rocks. The chicks came with a hand written note insisting that these babies be put under heat lamps as soon as possible. We have no such contraption.
I was still viewing when the sale began. It was quite a challenge to listen to the regional pace of the auctioneer while following his description of the livestock offered and concurrently watch two sproglets to make sure they weren't stuffing ducklings in their pockets.
In one box sat a brown broody hen, she pecked me, fed up with all the attention. Beside her in a box of chardonnay (I hate chardonnay) sat a petite white hen, her feathers silky to the touch. I read the description; Hen and Chicks, though there were no chicks visible. I gently lifted her and there, looking out at me was a tiny black face.
Bribing the children with sweets and bananas (the sweets won) I waited for the lots I'd chosen......... that is, until Hen and Chicks was called out...
My arm seemed to have a life of its own and suddenly we were the proud owners of Hen and 10 chicks; 2 black, 2 yellow, 4 white and 2 striped like wild boar. My only defence is that I figured mother hen could act in place of our lack of heat lamp..... weak defence I know. It's all I've got.
'Daddy, you can just make them an extension to the coop and a longer run,' she said matter-of-factly.
Daddy was so pleased........ 'ish.......