AS an alternative to their comfy beds in the porch, the dogs all have bean bags in an old outside toilet. A couple of years ago, John built a run attached to this old loo so that if we were away for any length in the day, the dogs were not caged up and had space for comfort breaks and to stretch their legs.

The solid outside door fitted to this ex-privy required a hole being cut out of the bottom to allow Fizz, Millie and Moss access to their run. But, come spring time, the door now prevented returning swallows and a Jenny Wren from their traditional nesting sites. The swallows make their home in the rafters and the Jenny Wren has created the most perfect little nest in the old window frame. So the door has had to come off for the spring and summer and the dogs now enjoy lots of light and air in their outside home.

And in no time at all, the first swallows have swooped. The Jenny Wren has beaten them to it though by miraculously negotiating the dogs’s former comfort opening and returning to her old nest site a week ago. It was her work on the nest that alerted us to the fact that we needed to let the nursery refit begin again.

Unfortunately not one of our hens has shown any inclination to follow this nesting instinct. This is despite the fact that I have five goose eggs in one incubator and six Aylesbury such eggs in another. When I set the goose eggs three weeks ago, I confidently predicted that at least one of my hens would be itching for motherhood by this time. I also felt that she would be swiftly joined by another prospective mum for the duck eggs.

I do partially blame John for this lack of maternal yearning in my hens. He dispatched the last of my cockerels at the end of the year and I have a theory that it is the lack of male companionship and the lustful feelings it may have engendered in my hens, that has also inhibited their desire to raise a family. Despite me providing attractive, private, secluded nest boxes, all comfortably lined with clean straw and a cast iron promise that I won’t whip the eggs out from underneath any sitting hen if she has motherhood on her agenda, not one of my hens has demonstrated a willingness to hatch out my goose and duck eggs.

So until one does I continue to turn the eggs in the incubators, keep the atmosphere humid and hope for an Easter miracle. Or a broody hen at the very least.