We had a nasty moment yesterday with that sweet, innocent looking hen on the right of this picture. That’s Willow, usually found wandering around the garden on her own, looking confused and, well, a tad gormless. She never knows quite where she’s hidden her gorm. We love her anyway. She’s Willow.

Oh she wasn’t ill, nothing so simple. To explain: there was a rather old and dilapidated bench beside the garden fence, next to the honeysuckle bush. P had noticed that Willow, for it was she, had been standing on the bench and looking around, speculatively. Though knowing our Willow, she could have just been looking for her gorm. And oh yes, you’re way ahead of me! Yesterday afternoon, she took a flying leap from the top of the bench, and landed on the drive, next to L’s car.

There was an almighty shout, not from Willow, but from Shelley. Nine years old, half bantam-half black rock, and self-appointed guardian of the flock. Think Aunt Lydia supervising a bevy of handmaids. Except there is no cockerel involved, and there are eggs. Lots of eggs.

There is one thing that Aunt Shelley cannot abide and that’s a hen trying to escape. If not for Shelley, we would not have known about the mass outbreak earlier this year, when we realised that the tall beech hedge was not an adequate barrier. We had to pay a trio of chaps to trim the hedge underneath and put up an impenetrable fence. Shelley has always alerted to us to attempts at crossing the border into Canada. Ahem, at attempts to get over the fence and onto the lane. It’s not exactly Brands Hatch out there, but there are tractors going up and down as there are a couple of farms up the lane. So it’s not really the cleverest thing a flock of silly hens can do.

So, there was Shelley, yelling her loudest alarm call. Don’t panic! Don’t panic!

I raced out and saw Willow standing by L’s car and looking confused. She was looking around as though she couldn’t quite place where she was. Outer Mongolia perhaps? The surface of Mars? It all looks different from that side of the fence, when you’re a speckledy hen, not quite a year old yet.

A speckledy hen is a hybrid of a Maran and a Rhode Island Red. They’re said to be docile, which is just as well. If it had been those two flighty girls, Holly and Hazel, my tale would probably have a less pleasant ending. Willow was docile enough to let me pick her up, with both hands, and carry her round to the garden gate. Thankfully P was there, holding it open. I put her down in the middle of the garden, and then she started shouting. She couldn’t see her sisters, specifically fellow speckledy Laurel. I rushed into the summer house, where we keep the hen and bird food, and grabbed a scoop full. When I threw it out into the garden, the others came running. Ah, there’s nothing better for a sisterly reunion quite like a scoop-full of grain and seeds.

It’s been quiet since then. Hazel, head of the escape committee, has put that down in the log book as a failed attempt. She’s probably annoyed that Willow made the attempt instead of, say Hazel, or herself. Willow is like that chap at the end of “The Great Escape”, played by Donald Pleasence. You just know that if one of us had said “good luck” to her, she’d have clucked “thank you” in English.

So it’s all over. There’s peace in the garden again. Until the escape committee holds another meeting and someone comes up with a dastardly plan. As long as Shelley doesn’t hear about it, it might just work.