We have been in denial for the last two days, but extensive searches have failed to find Billie the Beak. That feisty ex-battery hen, a real character. We will miss her.
Here she is leading her little flock - Little Red Hen and Sick Chick. Billie was always the boss, she ruled their woodland with a very pointy beak, and she wasn't afraid to use it.
She was always the first to greet us when we went into the wood.
This was her usual form of greeting and it didn't matter whether we wore wellies or sandals... she preferred the sandal option.
The other two hens are a little lost without their leader. Because we were working in the gardens today we let the hens out of the wood to join us, they just wanted company... and a few birdy treats from under the apple tree.
Sparky decided to check out the bird boxes and pointed out that this one needs some maintenance. Thanks Sparky.
During my lunch break I nipped up the road to visit Arnold - another shock awaited me... an empty field... no Arnold ... just a lock of coarse, black horse (tail) hair, near the fence.
My heart was in my mouth as I knocked on John's door and asked if Arnold was alright - John came out and shouted for him ... eventually Arnold came out of the inner yard, munching on some hay. Phew! What a relief.
He doesn't look quite as smart as he did at the weekend because he has been rolling in the mud again - but he still looks better than normal. He was a little miffed when I pulled out the camera and made him wait for his carrot. He forgave me, especially when we got to his favourite part of the proceedings, his polo mint.
I took the opportunity to check with John about what type of tree this one is. He confirmed that it is an Ash. The house was built in the 1830's, so the tree may well be a similar age, approx 180 years. It has the typical lattice patterned trunk of an ancient Ash tree. We still don't know whether it is one or two trees though!
'Bye Billie, I hope your end was swift.