“Long time no see.” Sam grinned, opening a shiny Land Rover door. “Hop in.“
We bumped down a track to a long silver hangar, ominous in the early morning mist. Just inside were pallets loaded with blue trays, each containing 30 pristine brown eggs. Sam guessed my thoughts. “750 dozen per pallet!”
We entered an enormous, gloomy space occupied by a moving brown sea. A strange sound went up, as if a footballer had missed a penalty in front of a stadium full of ghosts.
Brown, white-tailed hens filled every inch, bright red combs bobbing and inquisitive eyes darting.
“Seven and a half thousand!” said Sam, opening panels in the wall. “Free range!”
The hens laid in small aluminum ‘houses.’ Eggs rolled down rubber mats onto one of two conveyor belts. One had jammed, hence my presence.
Having fixed the belt, I noticed few birds outside. Some hovered at the exits. The vast majority hadn’t moved though.
“Why don’t they go out?”
Sam smiled. “Because they’re thick. Some never go out in the flock’s lifetime.”
“How long’s that?”
“What happens then?”
Sam’s mobile rang. “Excuse me.”
I realised that I really didn’t want to know…