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Spring chickens

The fully fledged spring weather is going down a treat at the Smallholdings.

by Ruth Chandler

The beautiful White Araucana
The fully fledged spring weather is going down a treat at the Smallholdings. These beautifully light mornings (now there's no need for a torch and raincoat when we go to let them out at 5.45am) and evenings – it wasn't dark till 8.15pm last night – mean the flock are scratching around far later than in the winter months – extending their laying potential, too. Yesterday, we had ten eggs from the 13 hybrids – pretty good going. And there are always the gorgeous pale pastel blue and green editions from our wonderful Araucanas – their addition to an egg box means they sell out almost instantly in the Country Living office.

I still consider it a miracle that the girls who this time last year were simply eggs inside an incubator on our kitchen worksurface have grown up into these fine feathered ladies and started laying themselves. Though I realise, at the same time, of course, that this is the most ordinary, everyday occurrence. Inevitably, because we've seen them from fertile eggs through to fluffy chicks and grow into the fine young ladies they are today, they're firm favourites.

I'm afraid I'm especially fond of the white one whom I've named Audrey due to her tall, slim elegance, snowy plumage dotted with black spots and general Hepburn-esque demeanour. She now seems to enjoy a stroke (I can't resist her soft feathers) and the occasional cuddle, too. As she is without both comb and wattle, you would be forgiven for wondering if she's a chicken at all, but perhaps I am stretching it a little by likening her to the 1960s film star and style icon. Love is blind.

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Assistant features editor on Country Living, Ruth lives on a smallholding in rural Essex.

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