Cosy Cottage Garden now has a new boss – her name is Dottie.
The bantams’ previous head of state, Jemima, was an assertive and sensible leader. She took her duties seriously, whether it was telling Mabel off for brooding or alerting the others when a threat, such as a cat, appeared. After her sad illness and death earlier this year, for a while it looked like there was no new Queen of the Pecking Order, or even a pecking order.
So the girls did their own thing. Ava would dreamily wander around before perching somewhere to meditate and ponder the mysteries of life, Mabel foraged for tasty greens, destroying honesty and other flowers in the process, Dottie dug away – usually in the tubs where I was trying to grow onions.
“No need for these little things, not sure what they are, but they’re not worms. Keep getting in the way of my worms, toss them out, that’s what I’ll do. They’re only in the way here. Hmm, I’m sure I spotted a worm here… Dig, dig, dig away, merrily into the dirt…”
But hens need someone in charge, so gradually Dottie took control of the situation. She proved a different type of leader to Jemima, more laissez-faire and easygoing. In a different world, she would not have made mother hen with her hands-off approach to the role. But Ava had no interest, Mabel was inclined to be more concerned about food than social affairs and Dottie may be dizzy but she was the eldest of the three.
She is no natural boss and does suit her name ‘Dottie’ in her character, as well as her appearance. She is not particularly interested in important security issues such as cats and hawks. Instead I see her outside my patio doors, alongside her compatriots, demanding sunflower seeds and mealworms. She will never gain a reputation for wisdom but she has excellent negotiation skills when it comes to titbits. However, unlike Jemima, who would call the others over whenever mealworms were handed out, Dottie keeps news of such treats to herself.
She is no autocrat. Instead of rebuking Mabel, who is starting to go through the broody process again, Dottie sits alongside her companionably, Ava next to her.
When asked about being a leader, Dottie replies: “We all do what we like but I’m the boss of course.”