Shortly after 6pm, I mixed the evening feed for the chickens, poured it into a bucket and walked around to the first of the chicken runs out on the hill.
I do the job day in, day out, which makes for a fairly sedate routine, even allowing for the odd cockerel attack.
Today was no different.
I walked through the free ranging hens, carefully flicking them left and right with my welly boots so as not to crush them underfoot. It’s the crofting equivalent of Moses parting the Red Sea as the hens haven’t twigged that it’s not a good idea to throw themselves beneath my feed as the rush for dinner.
The spare cockerels were fed first, as always causing a wave of frantic hens to wash over and around the run.
Next, the Johnny and his girls. Once again, the wave of free range hens surged up only to be thwarted, as ever, by the wire mesh.
The free range hens received their share, indulging in a frenzy of greedy pecking and squabbling to get the “best bits” as I scattered the feed beneath the trees.
Just the usual evening routine.
I left the main chicken area and headed out to the hill where we have an island of chickens amidst the pig runs. Psycho and his girls moved out there after their run flooded some weeks ago. The run is still sodden.
I walked along the track, past the hawthorn hedge and…
I heard three distinct explosive pops, similar to the sound of a suppressed air rifle. Strangely, they came from beneath the hedge.
Puzzled, I walked over to have a look and…
A stench that combined rotten fish, sulphur dioxide, rotten cabbage and urea grabbed hold of my nostrils, thrust itself down my throat, and clung on like dags on a sheep.
Resisting the urged to run for the Big Lad’s World War 2 gas mask, I leaned in closer for a look and discovered the remains of three, blown-apart eggs.
The contents, a frothing mix of grey, black and orange goop, hung in tendrils from the lower branches of the hawthorns.
A hen, or hens, must have laid the eggs some months ago. They’d sat there, fermenting away, building up pressure and waiting for the heavy vibrations of a stomping old galoot to split their ever weakening shells.
I beat a hasty retreat, still with the stench clinging to my face. So much for the daily routine.
Several hours later, after several washes and a lot of soap, it’s still there. Fainter than it was but still gross, revolting and sick-making.
Is there anything worse than the stench of exploding, fermented eggs?