‘The hens took shelter under the pig trailer in the paddock'
Country Smallholding|November 2020
A tree Armageddon frightens poultry diarist Julian Hammer’s flock and leaves him with a mammoth clear-up job
Julian Hammer’s

We’ve suffered from some very unseasonal weather this summer at Rose Cottage. In the orchard a recent storm snapped a young apple tree in half. It was in full leaf and the wind was of sufficient ferocity to bend it almost double and then break its 4in thick trunk off a couple of inches from the ground. The Bloody Ploughman is no more.

The same storm severely damaged a weeping ash in the woodland hens’ enclosure. Emma, my wife, had just collected the eggs from the coop and was heading off to let the ducks out when there was a creaking splintering noise followed by a loud crashing bang and a crescendo of squawking. Half of the 70ft ash had come down, narrowly missing the coop, the hens and the wife, but flattening a great expanse of chicken fencing. It wasn’t a pretty sight, and there were branches and birds everywhere. The hens were understandably upset and made a bid for freedom through the downed fence, seeking more peaceful environs and somewhere sheltered where hopefully giant trees didn’t drop out of the sky and try to flatten them.

We later found most of them taking shelter under the pig trailer in the paddock, with a few under hedgerows and the most intelligent of the lot ensconced in the greenhouse lazily pruning the tomatoes.

Another victim of the ash’s demise was a stoat or weasel that had been living in the drystone wall that divides the pig field from the woodland enclosure. When the tree came down this little critter shot across the lawn in a bid to escape the mayhem in the chicken run only to fall victim to our cat Woodstock’s hunting instinct. The end was quick — a sudden leap, a short scream and then Woody proudly presenting us with his trophy.

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