Celia Hart's blog about what's going on in and around her studio.
Art, printmaking, inspirations, gardening, vegetables, hens, landscapes, wild flowers, East Anglia, adventure, travel.

Friday, 31 May 2013

The Hen-wife's Tale

. . . Chanticleer Cheep stood high upon his toes, 
Stretching his neck, and both his eyes did close, 
And so did crow right loudly, for the nonce; 

And Russel Fox, he started up at once, 
And by the gorget grabbed our Chanticleer Cheep, 
Flung him on back, and toward the wood did steer . . .

This simple widow and her daughters two We
heard these hens cry and make so great ado, 
And out of doors they started on the run 

And saw the fox into the grove just gone, 
Bearing upon his back the cock away. 
And then they cried, "Alas, and weladay! 

Oh, oh, the fox!" and after him they ran.

This cock, which lay across the fox's back, 

In all his fear unto the fox did clack 
And say: "Sir, were I you, as I should be, 
Then would I say (as God may now help me!), 
'Turn back again, presumptuous peasants all! 
A very pestilence upon you fall! 
Now that I've gained here to this dark wood's side, 
In spite of you this cock shall here abide. 
I'll eat him, by my faith, and that anon!'" 

The fox replied: "In faith, it shall be done!" 

And as he spoke that word, all suddenly 
This cock broke from his mouth, full cleverly.

And that (with apologies to Geoffrey Chaucer) is more or less what happened on Monday evening when Cheep was grabbed by a fox and miraculously escaped with a scratch and rather less feathers than he had earlier in the day.

Unfortunately our relief at Cheep's miraculous escape from the jaws of death, turned to sadness when, on Wednesday, I discovered that Bryony was missing . . . presumed taken to be Russel Fox's supper.

Of the three new pullets we got last October, I think Bryony was my favourite. She was bossy and annoying (especially when she spent three weeks insisting she was broody!)

We will miss her, I think Cheep misses her, and this weekend for the last time we will enjoy her final beautiful dark brown egg.



  1. I don't know how many lives cockerels have but Cheep clearly has more than one, lucky boy that you were there to intervene.

    I'm still holding out hope that Bryony might have gone broody in a hedge somewhere, I know it's unlikely but you never know .....

  2. So sorry to hear that Celia, we lost one of our favourite and oldest chickens this week and were so sad. It seem worse when you find their last egg :-( You gave them a very happy life - keep that in mind x

  3. *Whew* Poor Cheep! Swift journey Bryony.

  4. Country life does have its sobering side.

  5. Oh dear, I'm sorry that it did not all end well. Aren't you getting an enclosure for your plants? Will it protect the chooks as well?

  6. Sorry to hear about the hen I lost all four to the fox one year he took none of them just killed them all. However since he had a very close shave with my dog he has given our garden a wide birth and prefers to dine in safety in other peoples gardens.

  7. so sorry Celia, Mr fox took all my cousins hens last week, it seems to be a bad time for hens....... xxx

  8. So sorry to hear about your hen, although I love foxes - they are pretty creatures - they are so very cruel when they take your beloved hen or like what happened to a friend of mine, her newborn lams when she turned away for a few minutes to tend to the mother...
    They are afraid of nothing, a few months ago they took a swan who was on her egg, a swan is big!
    It must have been emotional eating her final egg. x

  9. I am so sorry to hear you lost such a lovely hen but thank goodness Cheep was spared.

  10. Poor Bryony. And poor Cheep - but so glad he escaped!
    Perhaps you could carefully blow the egg and keep that last eggshell as a memento of your little friend Bryony?

  11. I love your adaptation of Chaucer! A very lucky escape for Cheep, but so sad for Bryony.

  12. Celia, you've adapted the classic tale so well. Cheep definitely has something new to crow about, but how sad to have lost Bryony. Can roosters crow the blues?

    Remembering one of your recent posts, I wonder if perhaps foxes also have a taste for pigeons?

    How is the podded pea crop coming along?

    Thank you for your visit and comment, too.


  13. Oh, how sad! I hate to hear about the loss of hens; at least you still have Cheep.

  14. I love your version of one of Chaucer's tales, and the story of Cheep's brave escape. But I'm sorry to hear about Bryony. I lost a hen last year to the fox, it is upsetting.

  15. The wiley fox is such a pest
    I am sure poor Bryony did her best
    But when Reynard wants his dinner
    As sure as eggs is eggs he will be the winner.

  16. so sad - I lost two of mine to a fox this morning. it so hard, you get to know then and they are all so individual.

  17. The ups and downs of keeping hens Celia; it's sad to lose Bryony.

  18. Hi Celia,

    So sorry to hear of your loss. We've had similar experiences with our daughter's chickens, and yes, it's very sad and rather infuriating.

    Thanks for your visit my way. I'm repeating myself here in case you don't generally check back for replies to your comments. I first discovered your work when I googled "purple podded peas" to see if the peas that my daughter had planted were edible! Although I've made many visits to your blog, I just now found you on Etsy. I love your happy images. All the best. . .

  19. That is sad to lose a chicken like that Celia. We lost our last one recently but haven't replaced them yet.

  20. I would find that devastating. Have always wanted some chickens, but we have coyote and fox roaming and I would have to build a fortress!

  21. What a tale of joy and woe,
    The foxes dinner and your sorrow.
    But lucky Cheep he calls some more
    and other chicks will come to your door! ( sorry!)


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