I spotted an ad in my local petshop last week, while the sadness at losing D was still raw. Today, feeling much more chipper, I decided to call the number on the ad which claimed to be selling 'laying hens and bantams, all sorts'. It was a mobile number, and getting the answer phone, I left a short message and my number. My friend and I went off then and had a brief adventure involving casing a house and a flat tyre, but that's not relevant, so I'll pick up the story at the point where the lady called me back and said I was more than welcome to pop around and view the birds.
Denise knew the street where the hens were located, and we pulled up outside a typical (for where I live) terraced house. We were taken down a long, narrow garden, where at the bottom were several small sheds. I could hear the hens from the street, and I could smell them from a good ten feet away.
In two sheds, there were maybe thirty birds. Mostly cross breeds, with the occasional utility thrown in for good measure. In short, not pets for the garden. Several cockerals took umbridge at being disturbed, and set about crowing to show us how hard they were. The hens were all nervous and flighty. I knew fairly soon after we stepped through the hedge to the sheds that I didn't want any of these birds. So that left me with that curiously English problem of having to say no.
I made a show of examining a few birds, made a few half hearted attempts at implying I wasn't interested, then panicked. I began to seriously consider buying one of these completely unsuitable hens just so I could leave without causing offence. I asked some questions, stalling for time. Desperately, I looked through the heaving flock in a bid to pick out the smallest/healthiest/least vulture like bird available. Even that hen was far too big for my other girls. Pekins have very short legs, and these hens all looked like they were on stilts. I had visions of my ladies squawking up the garden as this amazonian hen, with her ginormous pins, goose stepped after them to deliver vicious head pecks.
Realising that the conversation was floundering, and that the lady of the house was looking at me expecting me to make my choice, I settled on a flat out lie. I casually stated that I hadn't brought a box with me to take any hens home (LIE! Denise had brought her cat carrier) and that I had to talk to my husband first (LIE! He didn't even know I was out prospecting a hen purchase). I followed up with the ultimate load of chicken guano: I'll call you (BIG FAT LIE!!!!)
I can still smell the ammonia. I think that it singed my nasal hair.