"Hen" is an old-fashioned term of endearment in Scotland whose usage is falling off as it is now considered insensitive to women's new place in society, blah blah.
That's a great pity, for I much prefer being called "hen" to being called "pal", which used to be reserved for men. Democratic Scotland doesn't care for "sir" or "ma'am" although I suppose we would all "sir" and "ma'am" to the Duke and Duchess of Rothesay, were they to toddle by our places of work to open a new wing, etc. Maybe when I'm older more bus drivers will call me "hen" instead of "pal" because I remind them of their grannies; something nice to look forward to.
"Hen" is also not used overmuch by people who went to university or by foreigners like me, as it sounds funny in our non-Scots accents. B.A. some times calls me "hen" which leaves me in a bind as it sounds wrong to call him "pal" in return. I'm not sure what Scotswomen call their "partners" (another awful word) because the only Scotswomen I know either do not have partners or abstain from endearments in public.
Meanwhile, I have been reading all about hens because I am hoping to buy some in the spring and ensconce them in a hideously expensive but easily cleaned chicken coop under the apple tree.
Hens are the tentative solution to my need to mother somebody or something. B.A. does not want pets in the house, so hens are our compromise. Unfortunately, hens are a lot more work than cats and dogs, and you have to have two or three of them at once, as they hate living alone. But they do lay eggs, and they can be taught to love you through food-bribery, and they even enjoy a bit of a cuddle, so they may be worth all the attention, cleaning, worming, and tremendous chain and padlock I will have to buy.
The most depressing thing I read in the chicken books--and if you want to keep chickens the first thing you must do is read all about them--is that in urban settings you need to worry about humans even more than foxes because humans will steal eggs, chickens, coop and all. That was almost a deal breaker for me, for the last thing I want to worry about is serious sin. I write about serious sin all day long, and I do not want to tempt serious sinners into our garden with chickens.
Although chickens seem to pay their way through egg-production, they are not very economical pets, even if you buy or build a cheap chicken-coop yourself. You have to buy chicken feed, grit, bedding, disinfectant, biannual de-wormer powder, a feeder and a drinker, and the occasional cabbage or head of broccoli so they get their greens. This seems more involved than being a cat-mother, who has fewer things to buy: a comb, a collar, Meow Mix, Whiskas, a litter box, litter, and scoop. Being a chicken-mother is certainly more expensive than popping into Tesco for eggs.
Thus, poultry-keeping comes down firmly under the heading of "HOBBY", and as I already have a hobby--learning Polish--I have to ponder if I really have the time and money to invest in it. It would be easier to get a cat, but B.A. is adamantly against cats and my brother Nulli is deathly allergic to them, so he'd never be able to visit.
In case I haven't mentions, B.A. is adamantly against cats because he firmly believes that they creep into your bed at the crack of dawn and wake you up, and if you prevent them from doing this by firmly shutting the bedroom door, they avenge themselves by scratching the furniture.
I complained to cat-adoring pals about B.A.'s intransigence, but when I explained his reasons, they notably did not say that these reasons were unfounded.
B.A. is also against owning dogs, in part because of the terrible environmental damage to urban and semi-urban parkland caused by dogs and their owners. There are approximately 640,000 dogs in Scotland, and their urine is murder on trees and other plants. What their droppings can do to human beings is no joke. After twelve years at the Historical House, B.A. has seen just too much dog-damage to the precious Historical Landscape.
Chicken droppings, however, make a good fertiliser. So, now that I think about it, although chickens might not make strictly economical pets, they are environmentally friendly.