Pelly is like a cooing new mother. And all because of five French pullets and a Light Sussex named Jane. We picked them up in a cloak and dagger operation yesterday, armed with three cat baskets and a wadge of cash. We weren't sure where we were going, only that we were meeting at an agreed location and taking it from there.
Our contact, a 6ft 5ins former banker we knew only as Piers, apologised for the secrecy and explained in an incomer London accent: 'I've been having trouble with pikeys. They nicked 200 birds last year.'
It occurred to me that Piers could in fact have been a very clever pikey and the birds he sold us were someone else's. But it was clear he knew a great deal about hens and good animal husbandry.
And as soon as we saw the lavender marans, that was it, Pelly and I were in love. They matched our tops. Darling Loggins, however, reserved judgment and her money. She is rethinking her hen strategy and may well end up at the Gaggle of Geese at Buckland Newton for the poultry fair next weekend.
I'd wanted a barnvelder and a welsummer. But Piers didn't have any. So I was content with a cuckoo maran (Delia, the runt of the litter) and a lavender sister (Nigella). I was keen for them to move in to the best little henhouse in Dorset at the same time as Pelly's brood.
We drove back in a clucking car and coaxed the girls into their new home. Piers advised us to keep them in their house until morning to give them time to get used to it. Two hours later, Pelly phoned me. She sounded very emotional, as if she had been crying.
'You'll never guess what,' she said. I had visions of poor Delia being pecked to death and lying in a pool of blood and feathers.
'What?' The suspense was killing me.
'They've only gone and laid three eggs.'
Bless them. Pelly has swiftly become an expert on poultry. I didn't like to tell her that laying eggs is what hens do. I held my tongue and suggested we had scrambled egg for breakfast the next day, after the official hen house opening ceremony.
So this morning, armed with umbrellas, Mr Grigg and I walked down the lane to the Sheepwash plot. Pelly made a little announcement and Mr Sheepwash grumbled about playing second fiddle to a load of hens and having just a diet of Ginsters pies to look forward to while his wife was otherwise engaged. Celebrity Farmer's dad drove by in the Landrover on his way to feed the lambs and made some remark about The Good Life and then Felicity Kendal, at which both Mr Grigg and Mr Sheepwash swooned in nostalgic bliss.
'It was the dungarees, wasn't it?' Mr Sheepwash said, trying to explain Miss Kendal's eternal appeal.
Back at the henhouse, first out was Nigella, closely followed by Jane (after Jane Birkin), three as yet unnamed hens but possibly Brigit, Simone and Colette (they are all French, don't forget). Bringing up the rear was my dear little Delia.
They are so far adjusting well to their new surroundings. Pelly is looking out to their every whim, providing them with mirrors to gaze at their own reflections, sand to bathe in and plumping up the straw in their house six times a day.
Back at the Sheepwash abode, we cracked open a bottle of bucks fizz left over from Easter and three fresh eggs.
And do you know what? One of them - we think it was Jane's - was a double yolker. Pelly almost cried (again).
So we have a week, I hope, of fresh eggs to look forward to. Also on the timetable is the first turnout of the season for the pub cricket team, skippered by Super Mario and featuring appearances by Mr Grigg, Mr Sheepwash, Mr St John (fresh from his love trip to Venice), Celebrity Farmer and, batting for the other side, Mr Loggins.
Egg sandwiches anyone?
That's about it
Love Maddie x
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