OUR broiler chickens are eating everything I put in front of them and rapidly putting on weight. Unlike the chickens we have to lay eggs, these birds do not grow a dense covering of feathers and seem to always be huddled close to each other for warmth, even though I put a heat lamp on at night.

Unhappily, the next clutch hatched have not done well. The hen who had sat the eggs was useless. When she was in the main hut she hogged a nest box, didn’t lay any eggs and generally got in the other birds way.

Altruistically, I gave her the chance to sit a clutch of eggs. With chilling regularity a broken egg would appear outside the brood nest box. Was she snacking on the odd chick embryo? Was I harbouring a chicken cannibal?

At the same time this hen was sitting eggs, I was hatching a parallel clutch in an incubator. So I took a gamble and gave her seven chicks hatched artificially. Not only did she trash the eggs she had been hatching, she now set about systematically killing the chicks from the incubator. I threw her off and decided to chance it with another broody I had in the hen hut.

Bad idea. The chicks didn’t take to her and she, despite all those protestations in the hen hut to give her a chance in the maternity ward, set about killing these chicks too.

So now I have only one chick left. Whether it will survive is in the lap of the gods. I have put a heat lamp over this chick, and a fluffy chick toy for it to cuddle up to. Disgraced foster mother is back in the main hen hut, strangely disenchanted with maternal longings.

Away from the hen hut, the broilers food needed topping up. Although I feed the laying hens wheat, the chickens I am raising for our table need a higher level of protein in their daily ration. So I persuaded John to let me out (he thinks lockdown is wonderful, stops any purposeless shopping trips) and let me loose at our local agricultural trading depot.

How different the fields looked on my journey. Close to home carrots were being lifted by a self-propelled harvester. An enormous machine, it was harvesting about six rows of carrots at once and making short work of the task. I passed three fields being drilled with corn for next year's harvest and another where a huge machine chopped, baled and wrapped maize silage in one pass. Life does exist away from the hen huts.