The Actual Times
Friday, 14 June 2019

Broody Bantums

As the wet week washes out Albert and Knot accidentally stumbled upon the best way to cure a chicken of broodiness, not that she's thanking them for it!


It had been a rainy week.  Not the coming and going rain that Cambridgeshire generally saw but the steady dampness that never really dried up until some time long afterwards.   Knot had found refuge with Pee-Gee at Woodhouse.  On damp evenings they would gather in Pee-Gee’s burrow and Knot would snuggle down to watch the water dripping over the entrance while Pee-Gee told stories of woodland martinis and croquet.

This evening on their way to Pee-Gee’s the two bears had stopped by the chickens to let them out as usual.  Snapping the catch back they thought they would check to see how things were. The rain had caused Panther the chicken to be broody for some days now.  The large black hen with speckled red breast clucked and fussed and fluffed out her feathers, keeping the others out of the nesting boxes and denying anyone any more eggs.  Even Strawberry, the bossiest hen, had to admit that Panther was clearly after a family of chicks for herself and Albert had tried bopping her on the head with the sound board of his guitar. Despite this, she wouldn’t snap out of it. It was the third evening in a row that Albert had to share in his egg and he was running out of sympathy. 

“All this broodiness,” grumbled Albert, “how am I meant to get a good breakfast in without my eggs!”

“What? There’s so much else to eat,” said Knot effusively “The peas, and the rhubarb, and the herbs and the dandelions and the first crop potatoes and the…”  Knot’s voice trained away as Albert’s eyebrows raised higher.

"The Herbadaceous Foccacia? Or rhetorical question?"

“Obviously!” said Albert, “I won’t be dissuaded from my eggs!”

Once they’d confirmed that Panther was no better and in fact seemed even more entrenched in her broodiness Knot suggested that on their way to see Pee-Gee they go for a walk down towards the crocodile stump and see how the new brussel sprout shoots were coming along.   The crocodile stump was really just a tree stump that had fallen over and decomposed in a way that resembled a crocodile.  Behind it was the new vegetable patch where Albert had been carefully tending the first sweetcorn they’d ever grown. Albert was enjoying growing the sweetcorn as they just kept going up and up but he still wasn’t convinced that planting them in squares as opposed to lines was the best idea.  ‘All to do with the pollination’ said Old Mrs Rabbit knowledgeably.

Just as they turned to leave the vegetable patch and make their way to Pee-Gee’s there was a sudden commotion back towards the house.  First a shrieking, then a very indignant and loud clucking and then silence. The two bears smiled at each another.  It sounded like Panther had got herself in some kind of hot water. They had better go and investigate.

They walked quickly back passed the Mulberry - Albert looked up at the setting fruit longingly - and before too long they came across a very stern looking Strawberry who had gone as red as her comb. Garlic was quietly giggling on the far side of the fish pond.  Albert sidled up to Strawberry in an effort to calm her down and smooth her feathers over, he didn’t want any other chicken put off laying.

“What is it?” whispered Knot to Garlic.

It took Garlic some moments to get her breath back and stop giggling for long enough to talk.

“It’s Panther,” she said. 

“We guessed as much, why is she cross now?”

“She’s not cross any more!  Oh don’t get me wrong, she has been.  Strawberry has been telling her that ‘she has to snap out of this incessant broodiness’ and has banned her from the nesting boxes. She’s not allowed to go in.”

“I can understand why that would make her cross,” said Knot, “so what did she do?”

Well they had an argument about it and Panther said she would find the only place in the garden where she could quietly sit and brood and not be disturbed by bossy little red hens!!

“Ouch! She didn’t say that?”

“She did.  And then she threw herself into the very next place she could think of where she knew Strawberry would never go.”  Garlic nodded in the direction of the fish pond behind Knot.

Knot turned slowly round and stared with amazement.  No hen ever voluntarily interacted with the ponds unless they were drinking on the perimeter.  They even bathed in dust to avoid water.  But, nevertheless, there was Panther, sitting in the middle of the waterlilies.  In the middle of the fish pond.

Panther looked very pleased indeed with herself, almost smug you might say.  Albert looked in despair.

“And how, exactly to you plan to get from there back to dry land?”  he asked her. “It’s one thing to push off and flap your way from dry land to a waterlily, it’s quite another to try pushing on a waterlily and back to dry land!”

Panther cocked her head to one side and turned her gaze slowly to Albert enquiringly.

“What’s your exit plan!?” yelled Albert with frustration.

All at once Panther’s bravado collapsed and she began wailing.

“I don’t know Albert, can you save me?  I can’t come back to the wrath of Strawberry. Maybe I could come and live with you Knot, you’re such a friendly bear.”

Suddenly Knot saw the seriousness of the situation and realised it was time to get involved. 

“Let’s get you off and then worry about that later.” Said Knot starting to drag a large spade that had been leaning up against the cold glass house.

“If we balance this over that rock, get the flat end under her bottom and we all jump on the handle end maybe we can flick her up high enough to flap to the side without getting wet.”  Albert had a face on that said ‘Doubtful, but I can’t think of anything better’.  Knot took that as acquiescence. 

“Come on everyone,” Knot called.  By this time a small crowd of Actuals had gathered to watch the show and Knot needed as many as possible to help get as much height on Panther as they could.  One of Flo’s bunnies ran off with much excitement to find her brother to join in.  Knot and Albert expertly placed the spade over a rock and under Panther.  Then, the Actuals all crowded on a nearby rock ready to jump onto the spade handle.

It all happened in slow motion.  Just as the crowd of Actuals were at their optimum point of commitment the two rabbit kittens came skittering around the corner in their direction.

“Noooooooo!” shouted Knot as they collided with the spade handle, tipping the other end and depositing a squealing Panther deep into the pond water.  She shrieked and squawked and carried on a huge racket until she reached the edge, where upon she drew herself up and turned indignantly to Strawberry.

“Come on old friend, we won’t be treated this way. Let’s go look for worms.”

“But, what about your brood of chicks?”

“Brood of chicks?  What are you talking about?  I can’t think of anything worse.”

And with that, the two chickens wandered off.

There was a knowing grunt and the two bears swung round.  There behind them was Old Mrs Rabbit.

“Well done, young Knot, never fails,” she said.

“What?” asked Albert.

“Dunking a chicken in cold water to cure the broodiness.” And with that she hopped off.

“Well I never,” said Albert “I still learn something new every single day in the Outside.”


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