Mabel was the chook who took over Dora’s role as look-out for the flock. She stood up to visiting dogs and put them firmly in their place (quivering inside the door).

Betty and Mabel tell McLaren who’s boss

When the new deck was being built, Vera inspected the work – even wandering in the open door and looking at the startled workers from inside the house.

It was, therefore, surprising that Mabel should suddenly go downhill. Perhaps she was grieving for Betty who had recently died, or grieving for her loss of freedom. Once the deck went down, Mabel and Vera were confined to their run and, extensive though it is, the run does not include their favourite haunts: the garage, the deck, the lawn and the raspberry patch.

Whatever the reason, she became more withdrawn, puffed up, eating little, and spending most of her time on the straw under the henhouse. Vera spent a lot of time with her.

She died on Christmas Eve. She has joined the illustrious company of Betty I, Dora and Popcorn under the lilac tree, with Betty II nearby under the roses.

Vera, who was the lowest in the pecking order before, is the sole survivor. Her appetite is good. She seems to enjoy sitting in the warm hay in the run, or under the henhouse (where I have placed a mirror to help her feel less alone).

In the last couple of days, I’ve let her out onto the lawn for a couple of hours as there is no grass or clover in the run. She enjoys sinking down into it gracefully like a lady in a crinoline and spreading her ‘petticoats’ in the sun.

Out in the world, there is a shortage of eggs as poultry farmers adjust to the new animal welfare rules and ‘battery’ farming is banned. I have no plans to replenish the flock, however.

This little flock, a Christmas gift, will do for now.

Harriet, Hester and Henrietta

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