One day I found old Grey Hen on the ground unable to move. The fox had eaten two of her friends and had damaged her leg severely. She was given medical attention and her leg was bandaged. For three days she ate nothing, however tempting, just taking frequent, small sips of water. On the fourth morning she ate a piece of bread and from then on never looked back, consuming every imaginable delicacy we could think of: raspberries and cream, butter, cheese, wheat, barley, milk, bread and dripping (her favourite), cooked beef, raisins, etc. During the first four days and, as it turned out, for more than a year after, our other two hens exhibited such genuine, loving and altruistic behaviour that we found ourselves marvelling.
Sheep are equally often described as stupid or silly, which they most certainly are not, as George Henderson so astutely observed in The Farming Ladder: ‘Contrary to the common opinion the sheep is by far the most intelligent of all the farm animals.’ I was once given an orphan lamb and I named her Ellen. She was brought here when just two hours old, having been given colostrum from her mother, who did not have sufficient milk to rear both her two lambs. The farmer who brought her has a distinctively deep, rough voice. Six weeks later he called again and Ellen recognised his voice and ran to him. Several years later, when I banged my knee and was hopping about in pain, she left her food and came over to me with evident compassion and would resume eating only once I had succeeded in convincing her I was no longer in pain, even though I was!