Baby chickens don’t come every day in Ballyyahoo but when they do it’s a lovely surprise.
For Cori-the-hen woman there was more than a surprise when Tweetie was born.
It happened in early November, which in Ballyyahoo, is a time when night comes early and stays into the morning.
This a time when the darkness and cold of the winter begins to creep over the farmlands and woodlands of Ballyyahoo.
There are no street lights in the tiny town of Ballyyahooians and so many Ballyyahooians use a torch to guide their way.
Some Ballyyahooians don’t like this.
They fear the dark but not Cori-the hen woman. She knows there is nothing to fear in the dark and she welcomes the onset of winter.
Cori simply sees winter as the season that comes before spring and one that gives her a welcome break from her garden work.
Besides Christmas comes in winter and like all Ballyyahooians, Cori looks forward to Christmas more than any other time.
Cori loves to let her hens roam free in the Witchy Woods and the hens love to explore and scratch the earth, searching for food.
Cori also has a few ducks and the hens and ducks live quite happily together in Cori’s garden.
The biggest problem for Cori is the fox, for a hungry fox will kill a chicken.
To keep the hens safe, Cori has been in the habit of leaving food in a special tree for the hungry fox to feast upon instead of feasting upon her little hens.
Every night the hens make their way home to Cori’s house and squash themselves close together to keep warm for the night.
Every morning when Cori goes to the hen house the hens are already lined up waiting for her to arrive.
Once the door is opened the delighted hens run as fast as their little twiggy legs can carry them, all the way to the Witchy Woods.
You would be amazed to see how fast hens can run.
So, one morning, Cori was very surprised when she opened the hen house and realized that one of her hens wasn’t coming out.
Cori calls her Daisy.
Usually Daisy was the first one out but for some strange reason, Daisy chose to stay in the hen-house all alone while the other hens rushed towards their freedom.
Cori thought Daisy might have been having a bit of a sleep-in and she didn’t blame her one little bit.
Cori was finding it hard to get out of bed herself, what with the dull, dark mornings and the wintery chill in the air, not to mention the fact that her bed was warm and very, very cosy.
However, when it was still happening a week later Cori began to suspect that Daisy wasn’t catching up on her sleep at all. Daisy was trying to hatch an egg.
Eggs didn’t usually hatch this time of year in Ballyyahoo.
It was too cold for chicks to be born but Daisy was determined and she remained sitting on her egg for the next four weeks.
Then, early in November, on a fine breezy Wednesday morning, Cori was hanging out her washing when she heard one of the sweetest sounds she had ever heard.
It was coming from the hen-house.
It was a tiny chicken trying out her voice with some delicate little tweets.
Delighted, Cori set about making sure there was plenty of extra food and water and a good supply of straw to keep the mother and chick warm.
At first, all seemed very well in the hen-house but later Cori saw something that shocked her.
Meanwhile Daisy was hunkered down, keeping herself warm in the nest, and ignoring the cries of her cold little newborn chick.
This was strange baby chickens usually nest close beside their mother.
Cori carefully picked up the little chicken and placed her back in the nest.
She stayed and watched as the chicken burrowed her way in under Daisy’s wing and snuggled herself against Daisy’s warm body.
Happy that all would be fine, Cori went in to her house to make herself her favourite snack – a big sandwich of home-grown peas and chutney on two big doorsteps of freshly baked soda bread.
She was about to settle down in her favourite big squashy chair beside the fire when she was interrupted by a very loud knock on the door.
It was Sergeant Sid.
Now, Sergeant Sid is notorious for his love of sweets and his tendency to turn up on the doorstop whenever anybody baked in Ballyyahoo.
He must have got the scent of Cori’s fresh soda bread floating down the lane on the air.
‘Good day, Cori, how are you?’ said Sergent Sid.’
‘I was fine until a knock on the door interrupted my tea,’ said Cori.
‘Oh who was that then?’ asked Sergeant Sid, who wasn’t at the front of the queue when the thinking caps were given out.
‘Well, now, I can’t remember at all, ‘ said Cori, crossing her fingers behind her back.
‘Well that’s a strange one, Cori. It must have been those rapscallion kids knocking on the door and running away.
They need the strong arm of the law to sort them out,’ said Sergeant Sid, taking his notebook out and writing the words, ‘sort kids out,’ on his to-do list.
‘Was there something I can do for you, Sid?’ asked Cori.
‘Er, wait a minute now, let me think,’ he muttered, while he racked his brains to try and remember why he was there.
Sadly for Cori he spotted her jars of raspberry jam as he peered behind her into the house.
‘Oh yes, I’m afraid I have to inform you that you have broken one of the laws of Ballyyahoo.’
‘Oh no, not again! Which law is it now?’ asked Cori.
‘The law that says you cannot hang out washing on a Wednesday without a permit.’
‘Oh that’s a new one, and what is the penalty for this crime?’
‘Have you got any of that fresh raspberry jam to spare?’ He asked.
‘Indeed and I have, Sid. Will it be bread you’re wanting with it?’
‘Yes, some of your freshest homemade soda bread will do me very nicely,’ said Sergeant Sid, licking his lips.
‘Well, this is barely out of the oven an hour, will that do you?’
Sergeant Sid nodded and Cori beckoned him to step inside.
Sid sat down in Cori’s chair by the fire, his big mouth watering at the thought of a bit of fresh bread and jam.
Cori buttered him a large piece of soda bread and spread it with hand-churned Ballyyahoo butter and a thick layer of her own raspberry jam and handed it to him with a mug of tea.
She grew the raspberries herself and they were known to be among the sweetest in Ballyyahoo. She also added a secret ingredient.
Some suspected it was hint or two of loganberry, others said it was a fraughan berry, or three.
Cori often picked berries when she was out rambling around the Witchy Woods with her hens, but nobody knew for sure and Cori would never tell.
As for Sergeant Sid – he was too busy eating to wonder about the ingredients.
Imagine a vacuum cleaner sucking a piece of fluff from the floor, well that’s what Sergeant Sid looks like when he’s eating.
When he drinks tea he’s like a big slurping machine and the tea disappears down his throat quicker than you can say ‘glug.’
Once he’d finished eating, Sergeant Sid was very anxious to get back to the town.
He couldn’t wait to think up some new laws for the kids of Ballyyahoo to break while he sat in front of his TV polishing off the jar of jam Cori gave him to take home.
Cori walked him to the gate to be sure he was going and as she went to go back indoors she heard the faintest little sound coming from the hen-house.
It was the tiniest little tweeting sound and it was coming from the newborn chick.
The poor little thing was wandering around all alone and it looked like Daisy had forgotten all about her.
Cori’s heart was sinking – if Daisy didn’t mind her little chick there was only one thing Cori could do…
But first, she decided to try putting the little creature back in the nest again, in the hope that Daisy would change her mind and look after her little chicken.
After an hour Cori went back outside but as she drew nearer to the hen house there was the unmistakable sound ’tweet, tweet, tweet.’
The poor little chick was out of the nest and Daisy was huddled up in her bed of straw.
Cori put the little chick back in the nest three more times but it was no good.
For some reason, Daisy was not going to look after this chick and there was only one thing Cori could do and that was to look after the chick herself.
And so, Cori brought the baby chicken into her house and made her a little nest in the warmest place she had – right beside her, on her favourite chair by the fire.
Soon the little chick was eating and drinking and sleeping happily in the warmth of Cori’s nest.
As she ate more and drank more, she grew more, and as she grew more the little bird began to tweet more.
She began to tweet all day and all night.
The little chick was the noisiest of all the baby chickens Cori had ever had.
In fact, she tweeted so much that Cori called her Tweetie.
Cori reminded him that one day Tweetie might be producing some tasty eggs that Cori could use in baking her cakes and bread.
She also promised that if Sergeant Sid turned a blind eye to Tweetie’s tweeting she would make sure that the very first cake made with Tweetie’s eggs went straight to him.
And so, Sergeant Sid bought himself a strong pair of ear plugs and Tweetie and Cori were left in peace.
They were a very happy pair sitting by the fire with Cori eating her pea and pickle sandwich and Tweetie with her little beak open catching the crumbs and tweeting the night away.
For some more fun stories from Ballyyahoo click here.