Summer is the new Welsummer that my friend Sarah Brown gave me to keep. It took us a week or so to summon enough courage to introduce her to Susie and Helen.
A month or so later, she went missing on 18 July. I realised that she had hopped on to the nesting box, then on to the roof of the coop and then gone over the fence to the neighbours. They were very kind. But she did this again and again. One day the neighbours showed me a clutch of eggs in a magical shady corner of their garden. Obviously, Summer was going over to lay her eggs, which we retrieved every day for a week.
One day the neighbour said that while he did not mind the chicken, he was afraid that the landlord would not be too pleased with the way Summer was digging up their garden. Something had to be done. Summer was the first of my hens that had escaped the spacious chickens’ run. Their days as free rangers were nearing an end. They would need a hen house that was covered and spacious enough.
So for a few days, the hens were locked up in the coop and the plastic-netting fence was removed. It would be a month before, the new house was built, and understandably the hens seemed rather cross.
I ordered a coop. Shortly after it arrived, we moved the coop away to a side and made room for the bigger hen house. My son Tim, our once-upon-a-time-lover-of-Meccano-sets, assembled the frame.
Ruby, my son in law’s mum, and I wanted to get a roosting perch sorted for the hens. So we took turns at using the hack saw to procure it and be able to quite literally offer them the olive branch.
We then brought many wheelbarrows of sand from the back for the henhouse floor.
When we were still wondering what the best way to set up the perch was, that very night my son in law gave us some strong metal pipes, which was just what we needed. I thanked God for sometimes pampering us with answers to the littlest of wishes. So we set the perch up with the help of some concrete and ingenuity.
We covered the coop frame with chicken mesh and also cheap tarps, using a plier to twist scores of wires to hold everything in place. For the wires to go through the tarp, we used the ‘koni pi’ needle and more ingenuity.
We took ages to finish the coop because it rained a lot. In the meanwhile the hens were in their coop and often allowed to free range. Summer did not go to the neighbours any more because she may have forgotten about it, or it could be that once the coop was moved, it was not easy to go over the fence any more.