In terms of life ambitions, I have had a few. I wanted a smallholding since my early teenage years. This desire developed after my burning interest in medieval history, but before I became involved in specialist education and long before I began to write. In terms of outcomes, the smallholding lagged way behind and only became possible once we moved to somewhere with a big enough garden. Even then, my attempts to husband the land have been somewhat thwarted by the horrendous soil we have here. But chickens – yes, chickens – have headed the list of to-dos and, ten days ago, 8 feathered ladies arrived to take up residence in their new home.
I put my interest down to my DNA inherited from generations of farmers. Working the land and being close to all that is green and growing, mooing, and crowing, must somehow have become embedded in my psyche because my birthday wish-list as a fourteen year old included a book on self-sufficiency by John Seymour. I have it still, looking a bit tatty around the edges, but no less loved.
Which brings me back to chickens – or to Matilda, to be precise – the dippiest hen I have ever met. Matilda is one of two Chamois Laced Padovanas and 6 other hens from https://www.pipinchicksilkies.com/live-poultry-shop/and I’ll no doubt be writing more about her in the future. She is joined by her sister – Myrtle, two Lemon Laced Padovanas (who have yet to be named), two big Gold Laced Wyandotte girls – Big Sue and Little Sue – and the two pencilled Wyandotte bantams – the youngest of the bunch. Small the bantams might be, but they have fearsome personalities.
What do hens have to do with writing, you might ask? Everything and nothing. For one thing, they make a marvellous foil to sitting and writing, and for another, time spent in their company inspires a surprising number of ideas for character traits. The question is, do I really want a chilly Felice Langton or a moany Joan in my flock? Thankfully, none of my ladies appear to be that way inclined, even if Big Sue does get a bit picky now and again. The upshot is: if you want to understand people, study hens.
CF Dunn is an award-winning novelist of history, mystery and suspense.
She is currently writing The Tarnished Crown series, the first of which, Wheel of Fortune, is described by novelist, Elizabeth Chadwick as ‘The best Wars of the Roses novel I have ever read.’.
Now living in the South West of England, her love of history is equalled only by her delight in the natural world and the unruly sea by which she lives with her family and assorted animals in suitably rambling historic surroundings.