Global warming. Climate changes. Kyoto agreement. Environmental disasters. They’re words on everybody’s lips nowadays, aren’t they? I even use them myself, though I don’t really understand what it all means. Sandra does. Sandra knows everything. At least, she tells me she does, and I suppose she should know.

It’s all a bit worrying. Global warming, that is, not the fact that Sandra knows a lot. It’s a bit hard for a man to know what to do. Luckily I’ve got Sandra. She knows. Well, her idea was to keep a few hens, so that we would always have fresh eggs, and when the hens get old enough, we can have chicken soup. Very nourishing, says Sandra. Good for you. And if we keep enough hens, we can sell off the surplus eggs for other foodstuffs. How it all affects our place during global warming I can’t say, but Sandra seems to think it would help.

I must admit I wasn’t so sure. I mean, it sounded like a lot of hard work to me, but she persuaded me to see things her way. She has a gift in that direction, has Sandra. Mind, I wouldn’t have said no to sharing a cigarette afterwards, but she said not on your nelly. Ciggies are bad for your health, to say nothing about the burnt holes in the sheets. Still, it’s always nice to have a before not to be able to have a quiet smoke afterwards.

So we set to work. Ten hens and a cockerel to start with. Or rather to finish with, as even I could see we would need to start with a cage of some sort. So, chicken wire, lots of it. Wooden posts, about twenty of those. A hammer, a crowbar, a saw, nails, and a fair bit of bandage until we saw the sense in wearing work gloves. Then there were the nesting boxes. Very important were nesting boxes, said Sandra. She’d been reading all about it in a book she got from the library. It’s another gift she has, and hardly moves her lips at all when she’s doing it. More wood, a screwdriver or two, plenty of screws.

It all looked a bit lopsided to me when we finished the job, but Sandra said she was happy with it, and that hens are not too particular. I thought that maybe it was meant to look that way. Still, it did seem solid enough, and so we introduced the hens. And the cockerel. I did wonder about that, but Sandra said one cockerel could look after ten hens all on his own, and I could wipe that look off my face, since there’s only one Sandra thank you very much and that’s going to be her. She seemed quite definite about it.

Then we waited. And waited. And waited. Not a lot happened. I mean, there wasn’t a great deal in the egg production line. In fact, there wasn’t anything. Oh, the hens settled down very well, and the cockerel appeared to be happy. Well, he would, wouldn’t he. A bit tired, but happy. It was a real treat to watch the birds scratching about in the soil, looking for worms. It started out as grass, but it didn’t take a week before there was only dusty soil wherever the hens had been. And hen muck. Lots of that. Rather more than they ate, I thought. Apart from worms and insects, we fed them on food scraps from the kitchen, which Sandra said was quite all right. They always seemed to be hungry though, so we bought some ready made food from the local corn merchants, specially designed to keep hens healthy and happy.

Whatever we fed them with, the result was the same. No eggs. The days rolled by, turning into weeks, then months. Still no eggs. They were supposed to give well over two hundred eggs in the year, according to the book, but maybe these hens were illiterate. Or maybe it was a misprint. For all I knew, that number should have been two eggs in the year. Who would know? In the meantime, we bought our morning eggs from the supermarket.
They need time to settle down, said Sandra. They’re too young yet, she said. It’s the wrong sort of food, she claimed. She said quite a lot, really, but the day came when even she ran out of excuses for them, and we simply stared at our purchases and wondered how to bring a bit of cooperation into their little lives. Sandra started looking reflectively at axes in the hardware store, and I could see she was getting a bit broody.

But all things come to an end, and at last the famine broke. After thirteen months and one and a half weeks – we didn’t count the hours – we woke up one morning to a really horrible noise, almost as though World War Three had broken out. The hens were squawking, the cockerel was crowing and there were feathers flying everywhere. Sandra burst out of bed and ran across the garden without bothering to put anything over her nightie, really short with a fair bit of lace around the hem. Very nice too, except that I was a bit slow and never got more than a quick flash of her legs, which didn’t matter as she was normally very generous in that area.

I caught up with her by the henhouse, and saw by the look on her face that she was happier than usual. You’ve guessed it, we had an egg. Only the one, mind, but an egg just the same. Our first, and as precious to us as though it had been our own baby.

Sandra put it in the fridge and said she would make us an omelette each when we got a few more. Well, there were no more that day, and there were no more the day after. In fact, there were no more at all. We only ever got the one egg, and considering what it cost us in the way of materials, tools, the birds themselves and the food we gave them, the one egg we got certainly reached a price of well over two hundred pounds. We couldn’t bring ourselves to eat it at first, and when we did, it turned out to be rotten and stunk the house out for days.

Oh yes, a fox got in amongst the hens shortly afterwards and took the lot. Still, as I said to Sandra, there’s one consolation. We’ll not die of cholesterol poisoning. Considering how careful she is about our health, I thought she might have taken the comment with a bit better grace.

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