I once had a lovely hen and we named her Philomena.
It seemed to me a perfect name for a hen. A friend of mine had just seen a film with Dame Judy Dench in it, where she plays a lady from Northern Ireland who had to give up her baby as it was born out of wedlock. The name of the film, and the character played by Judy Dench was Philomena. I don’t know why but it seemed the ideal name of one of my hens.
I had already kept a few hens as pets. I had Cleopatra, who lived up to her name as she became a cold hearted harridan who used to chase and terrorise the pigeons.
I also had Henrietta, who unfortunately turned out to be Henry and had to go back to the farm because we couldn’t have a Cockerel as they are too noisy.
Other Hens included Ophelia, Rosemary and Queenie.
So my next hen, which was a lovely fluffy hen with feathers a golden yellow colour, was named Philomena.
She was always a bit timid. She was the last to come down for a handful of corn. She often liked to sit under shrubs and bushes away from the other hens.
Unlike my other hens who used to lay eggs either every day or every other day, she would only lay once in a while, when she felt like it. One week she would lay an egg, then the next week we’d get two. Her eggs were much rounder than the others and were almost white.
We did feel rather privileged when Philomena deigned to lay us an egg. Like she really cared.
After a little while she started to lay daily. We were a bit surprised at first. We had had her several months by then and had got used to the routine of one or two eggs a week.
After laying a clutch of a dozen eggs, laid one day after another, her behaviour changed once again.
Although we collected the eggs every day, they were too precious to leave in the nest where they may get damaged by another hen, it seemed that once Philomena had laid the requisite number of eggs her brain decided it was time to incubate.
She became a broody hen. She would sit on the nest all day. She wouldn’t eat or drink, or do anything else that a normal chicken would do. She sat there. Sometimes there wasn’t even an egg there to sit on. Her brain had clicked in to Mother mode and that was that.
Even if she had sat on a clutch of eggs they would never have hatched into tiny chicks, because we did not have any cockerel, no male chicken to fertilise the eggs. I tried to tell her this, but she didn’t grasp my talk about the ‘birds and bees’.
We had to keep lifting her off the nest and placing her, gently, onto the lawn, so that other hens could take their turn on the nest, providing us with breakfast.
She used to purr, a very strange sound coming from a hen, and puff up her feathers when we lifted her off the nest. We sometimes had to wear gloves because our lovely timid hen became a mother enraged and pecked to protect her imaginary eggs.
Bless her. After a week or so of this behaviour she then would snap out of it and go back to our normal routine.
Then after a month she would start laying eggs daily and we knew we were headed back to Broody hen time.
Over the years we experienced several cycles of this until she stopped laying altogether.
She seemed healthy but didn’t lay any more eggs.
Then last month we lost her. My lovely fluffy Philomena decided to join the big perch in the sky.
Although it was quite a rigmarole having to deal with a broody hen, who was fixated on incubating imaginary eggs and hatching out a multitude of imaginary chicks, I miss her.
She will always be there in my heart, my broody Hen, called Philomena.
Copyright: Kristian Fogarty 18/March/2018