My first hens were given to me by my Uncle Dave. His father had worked, and Dave had been brought up, on the estate of a lady who still seemed to regard him as one of her serfs. He would be called in to do various jobs from time to time. This time it was, "Davie, I need you to come and kill some hens for me. You can take two for your own freezer for doing the work."

Dave wasn't happy about doing it as the hens were only about 18 months old, but noblesse must be obliged! His "two for the freezer" came to Redhall - alive.

Phil hadn't been keen on having hens so they lived in the "Peacock" hut for a week before I gave him an egg and told him where it had come from. They became Henrietta and Chicken Licken (Ciele) and had a good long life. They laid eggs every day, sometimes double-yokers, and very quickly came to appreciate being free range. They had total freedom.

We'd played "catch the feather" games with Rocky so when Njoy strutted around with a long train Rocky tried to catch it. Njoy was totally unaware but when Henrietta saw what was going on, she severely pecked poor Rocky's bum - took out a beak-full of fur. No lèse majesté allowed.

Sometimes "my" hens would scratch out a valued plant but they would also come and sit on my knee when I was in the garden and they kept us in eggs for at least ten years before they died of old age. Henrietta enjoyed about a year of retirement but Ciele laid every day until two days before her death.

I'd heard of Scots Dumpy hens - an endangered species in Scotland until some were found in Kenya. A Scottish lady took some as part of her dowry and her flock in Kenya provided sufficient gene input to keep the breed alive. I managed to get a trio, two females and one cockerel. They were lovely, short legged fowl but, unfortunately they did not breed. The ladies sat on eggs but they had not been fertile. Tam M'boya, the cockerel died unexpectedly. I was keen to increase the flock and was very lucky to hear of a flock in Fife owned by Mr Duncan