4 June 1999


WHEN we set up a fully automated egg collecting system in our free range we foolishly thought that things would run smoothly. Silly us!

We soon realised that there was an electrical fault somewhere which caused the power to trip out and, depending on the time of day or night that this happened, it could be just a minor problem or a complete disaster. The worst time was in the night when the nestboxes were shut. If we did not realise what had happened the boxes would remain shut and the hens would lay all over the place. Picking up 4000 eggs scattered all over a shed is a horrible experience.

No-one could locate the fault so we decided to fit an alarm which would go off when the power was lost. It had to be very loud as the shed is a fair distance from the house. This worked well but we had to remember to switch it off if we were leaving the premises as once triggered it had no cut-out mechanism. Although we live some distance from our nearest neighbours, the sound carried for miles.

At around the same time that we were setting up the laying unit, we were also renovating the house and we decided to buy a secondhand Rayburn for the kitchen. We purchased this from a young couple who lived about 30 miles away from us and, as part of the deal, they agreed to deliver it. Obviously it was a strenuous job moving the stove into the house and after the hard work, my husband suggested that we all go to our local for a drink or two to recover. (Any excuse!).

This was a spur of the moment decision and, needless to say, we didnt think about the alarm. We had an enjoyable drink and chat and were probably in the pub for an hour or so. As the pub is only about a mile and a half away, we didnt anticipate any trouble getting home.

However, driving down the narrow road near home, we were surprised to see a police car tucked into a side turning. Immediately my husband, who was driving, got worried thinking that he might be breathalysed and, as the police car followed us down the road he became even more anxious.

We drove into our yard followed closely by the police car and as soon as we opened the car door we heard the alarm. It must have gone off soon after we left the farm.

My husband leapt out of the car and ran up to the shed to turn the noise off while I dealt with a couple of bemused police officers. They said that they had been called by neighbours right across the valley after the siren had been wailing for ages.

All our neighbours now know what the alarm is for but at that time it was new and they didnt. The policemen had looked all around the farm but still didnt know where the noise was actually coming from so had decided to wait up the road – what for I dont really know. Anyway they were satisfied with my explanation and went off happily.

My husband was then able to make an appearance (he had been lying low in the shed) and no harm was done.

We have often thought that we paid too much for that secondhand stove, but at least no-one got into trouble and we had a good story to tell our friends.

Liz Carnac

See more