Hens are great heralds of spring. Although it is still cold enough for the woodburner and the electric blanket every night, the hens are more responsive to the lengthening daylight than the temperature. We have eight hens and one cockerel. Throughout the short dark days of November, December and January we get just one or two eggs every couple of days. It is hard to tell whether they are laid by our rehomed hybrids from the British Hen Welfare Trust or by our own Welsumer crosses as both lay a medium sized pale brown egg, though perhaps the Welsummer eggs are a little darker and more inclined to be speckled. The Cream Legbars don't lay at all in the winter. Their eggs are a beautiful pale blue and as the days get longer we check the nesting boxes hoping for the first sight of that pale blue gleam.
This one is so pale you can hardly tell it is blue in the picture but I promise you it is. Now we have all the Cream Legbars laying and eggs coming out of our ears. Spring is very nearly sprung.
And by the drive the very first of the cowslips is just beginning to open. This is a pretty poor photo but you can just see the flowers emerging. When they are fully out they will be held high on their stalk, quite distinctively and nothing like the ground hugging primrose. This is a little patch which started as four or five plants a few years ago and is slowly spreading. I have tried to establish cowslips in the field as well but so far only one solitary plant seems to have survived. Surprisingly they seem happier in the poorer soil by the drive than in what seemed a more favoured spot in the field.
Up on the top of the Clwydian hills just half a mile stroll from home, the grass has not yet started to green up and only the windblown pines are green against the sky. There are hawthorns up here too, twisted by the wind, but it will be weeks until they show their new spring green leaves.
There are cattle up here though who seem happy enough amongst the grass and gorse.
Sheep up here have their meagre grass supplemented by turnips in February and early March before the new growth comes. That was a revelation to me when we came to live up here over nine years ago. I never knew that sheep eat turnips!
But in the shelter of our fold of the hill where the wind is soft and the sun has warmth in it, primroses are flowering. There are so many contenders for my favourite flower at this time of year and the flood of native daffodils is still to come. I am still loving the snowdrops and hellebores but perhaps right now, today, primroses are the flower that whispers spring.