Bernie the bantam became a singleton when the fox took her sister Bianca. For over a year she wandered this yard a sad and lonesome bantie. Never an egg did we see. Then along came Attracta, Dympna and Patsy and she cheered up. This must be where the expression ‘chirpy’ comes from for Bernie chirped, chirruped and chucked from morning to night. Previously she had only been heard to squawk. Queen of the hen house she was. She even started laying the occasional egg.
Then she started making a chookling noise. “There’s no point letting her clock on sterile eggs!” Aunt Lizzie declared. “Ye must whammle her.” I was intrigued. What was whammling?
Whammling involves putting the clocking hen in a dark enclosed place and leaving her there until she stops clocking. So we put Bernie under a clematis crate. She was outraged. I didn’t like doing it for it seemed cruel. But then she escaped. She had stopped making the chookling noise so I thought she was ‘off the clock’ but Lizzie said, “She’s only trying to trick you. Clocking hens are very crafty.” The next thing was she disappeared completely. We searched and searched but there was no sign of Bernie. We assumed she had decided to make a new nest outside and fully expected to see her in the morning. That’s if the fox didn’t see her first.
We didn’t see her on Saturday morning. Or Sunday, Monday or Tuesday. Oh well. Foxy must have taken her. On Wednesday I followed his pad fully expecting to see a trail of black feathers but there was nothing. Then on Wednesday evening Bert heard a faint chook, chook coming from the wee cupboard the central heating boiler is in. He opened the door and out staggered Bernie. She had a drooth on her that took 15 minutes to sate. Then she ate two helpings of corn and a slice of wheaten bread. Then she drank lots more water. Then she went scraping with the other hens. Scrape, scrape, scrape with the feet. Step back to see what you’ve got. Then more scrape, scrape, scraping.
So maybe next time Lizzie says, “Whammle that hen,” we should keep her whammled. It's either that or ask Clint for the lend of the rooster.