My futile search for a pet to share Eshaness lighthouse has taken me from hedgehogs to an orange rabbit to orphan lambs. Determined that I still needed a pet I had another brain wave. One day on my way to an antique store I passed a croft that had the most usual looking chickens. A chicken seemed a rather far-fetched for a pet but I had chickens back on the farm in Michigan and was familiar with them. The garage that had become known as the caddy shack could be turned into a hen house and think of all those lovely fresh eggs I would get.
One Sunday I convinced our caretaker, Tom, into taking me along with the infamous cage that has been home to the hedgehogs and the orange bun-bun to the croft with all the chickens in its yard. Once we arrived I realized I had no idea what kind of chickens I wanted, which made it difficult because they had so many. Not knowing anything about the various breeds I decided to make my selection based totally on whether I liked their looks. This may not be the best criteria for selecting chickens but seemed like a good idea at the time.
First, I choose a white one with beautiful black and white markings in its tail and around its neck. Its breed name was Suffix and so it was called Suffix. Then I choose a big Cochin hen, which was reddish brown and had beautiful feathers on its feet. It may come as no surprise she was named Cochin. There was a magnificent grey hen with lovely plumed feet that the crofter said was a good layer so I chose her also. Her name is Brahma so you know her breed. Wanting to make at least one responsible choice I asked which chicken was best for the Shetland climate and the crofter recommended a Black Rock. So Rock became my fourth selection.
We took them back to the lighthouse and placed them in the caddy shack. Tom made nests out of fish boxes and we lined the flour with sawdust. The caddy shack made an elegant hen house. It had light for the winter so they could continue laying during the short days. It also had heat so they would not be too cold. The chickens seemed to be happy and the first morning I went out to find two beautiful brown eggs.
Since then they have laid at least two eggs a day plus being wonderful company for me. They are always glad to see me when I come to feed and water them. When gales and storm come they are shut up into their solid stone garage but on nice days they run all over the lighthouse yard.
They are great company for me and the tourists love them almost as much as they did the caddies. They have got to be some of the most photographed chickens in the world. When I am not at the lighthouse the chickens go to live at Tom’s house and bless him with eggs and their cheerful chatter. But, when I return home they come back to the lighthouse to be my pets.
It was a long struggle including much heartache but Eshaness Lighthouse finally has pets.
This story appeared in the
May 2003 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.
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