Thursday, 31 May 2012

Light Sussex bantams

I was an odd sort of child.
No good at football or fighting, I was happiest hunting for birds nests or catching frogs. I was fascinated by all things avian and one of my cherished childhood memories was being taken to Barton Lodge by our neighbour where they kept pheasants, guinea fowl and chickens within the ancient and crumbling walled garden.

When we left our home in Clifton my mum promised this little boy that one day she would buy me chickens. Half a century later she's honoured that promise. Let me tell you the story....

When our aging bantams steadily succumbed, leaving us with Emmy, our lonely little old hen and a palatial hen palace it was time for new birds.

I trawled the internet without luck, searching for Light Sussex bantam pullets. Light Sussex are believed to have been introduced by the Romans. The birds have black and white plumage against which the red comb makes a striking contrast. Pullets are young hens. Bantams are a dwarf form of the large fowl. There were older hens and there were large fowl. There were varieties other than Light Sussex. Sad face.

In the end, after many hours and after midnight on Sunday I discovered 'Preloved' website where Light Sussex bantam pullets were advertised for sale in nearby Belper. And hurrah! Made contact with the breeder and ...discovered he lived over two hours car drive away. Boo. But he could bring them over and meet me half way (near Ripley) where the deal would be done. Hurrah and clapping! And he'd give me a free cockerel to go with the three pullets. Hats in the air. Then text to say he'd let me have four bantam pullets and a young cockerel for fifty quid (£50). Fanfares. Women faint.
Which is why I found myself in the car park of The Excavator pub, seemingly in receipt of 'under the counter' chickens, waiting for the chicken police to sweep in in unmarked vehicles with me being the centre of a carefully constructed 'sting'.

I got out of Ripley without obviously being tailed. And a crowd had assembled by Rogers Hen Palace to witness the arrival...
Friends and family named them on a Scottish Western Isles theme - I like there to be a challenge. So welcome Islay named by Jill, Iona named by dad because he paid for her, May* named by Judith and Tess (?) named by mum. You too may question what Tess has to do with the Outer Hebrides. Put it this way, I could imagine saying to visitors 'This is my Tess or this is my Islay' - mum's suggestion for our new cockerel was 'Cocky': neither appropriate nor gaelic.Trev & Linda chose Lewis as the name for our new cockerel.

So our new community of fowls is installed in Rogers Hen Palace under the watchful eye of Emmy, the matriarch.

And mum's promise came true: she and dad paid for Tess and Iona.

Here we are gathered to welcome them to their new home....

Photos by Linda.

* I know, I know - an island off the East coast of Scotland

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