It is with deep sadness that I report the demise of Dotrice (Dot). She passed away sometime during the night of August 12th 2007 to the accompaniment of a raging rock party in Silver Street possibly around midnight.
Dotrice was born, I believe, to a chicken fancier - now moved towards Thetford - sometime in 1999. To all intents and purposes she was a Light Sussex bantam chicken one of two acquired in 2002 to act as guardians and companions to Castor & Pollux.
Castor & Pollux were the remnants of a family of 11 saved from certain death by starvation by Mattie the builder in 2002. Their mother had wilfully abandon her whole family because they had slipped down between the bales in the barn and she, having secured one chick, was in too much of a hurry to get going to persuade or seek an alternative route to safety for the rest of her family.
The twins, with their brothers and sisters, were hand reared in the big room in a large cardboard box, which was taken out every day at great inconvenience to Dear Charlie. In their formative years they survived two attempts on their lives from Tigger the Jack Russel. The first saw the demise of two of their family, the final assault, leaving them deeply traumatised, saw the death of all the rest of the family and ensuring that Tigger had a kill total of nine on the leader board - a margin that has yet to be narrowed by any of the canine inhabitants of Rookyard Farm.
Dotrice was chosen along with three other hens Ethel, another light Sussex bantam, Blue and Ginger, Old English Game bantams. On arrival they were all shut up with Castor & Pollux in a renovated Chicken shed. The said shed (known as Stalag 57) had taken three weeks to prepare at a cost said Dear Charlie which would have made a Sultan blush.
Within a few weeks the new inhabitants had settled themselves in and were happy to wander aimlessly in their pen occasionally being visited unbeknownst to their owner by the feral cockerels, who could not believe their luck. So it was with some surprise to their owner that Blue and Dot went broody and no eggs were forthcoming for the rest of that year.
It was at this point that Ethel was found legs up in the nest – diagnosis death by overfeeding. From this time on Stalag 57 was no more – the pen was dismantled and the Stalag Six (now five) became a truly free range.
It cannot be said that Dot was a particularly taking hen; where Blue was fierce and proud, Dot was mild and gentle. Where Ginger was fussy and overbearing mothering all in her path, Dot was a more laissez faire mother. In fact she was more of a laying machine than hands on broody. I never saw her with a feather of chicks around her ankles.
Her sheer longevity earned her a place among the favoured coupled with the number of her progeny which survived. However toward the end of her life when she could no longer scamper away form danger her sheer guts and cussedness finally came to the fore. It was not unusual to find her the centre of a cacophony of barking terriers and bombing whippets but these affronts to her dignity barley ruffled a feather and this calm attitude towards life ensured a cessation of interference from the canine fraternity.
Her last day was spent underneath the Greengage tree where the pickings were rolled directly in front of her for her delectation. It must be noted that her eyesight was dwindling and she no longer enjoyed the guided tours round the garden lead by Ollie and Stan the two major cockerels in the flock.
An additional incentive to remain aloof was the persistent attention of some of the younger cockerels – suffice to say their cards have been marked and it won’t be long before the axeman cometh…
My last memory is of shooing her off the tray of freshly picked greengages and then selecting the ripest I could find and letting her eat it out of my hand….Dotrice’s body was found on Monday August 13th. She was buried in the wood.