After losing the chickens to a vixen a few weeks ago, I spent some time musing over which breed I would replace them with. I was leaning towards some Buff Orpingtons, but the decision was taken out of my hands when my wife arrived home one day with seven former supermarket chickens. They were in a pretty poor condition, missing feathers and dull in the eye, but they cost nothing, and there is always something very pleasant about giving a doomed animal a second chance. I have come to admire them.

Last weekend, I was watching them enjoy the freedom of the orchard, pecking at worms and enjoying probably the first dust bath of their lives, when I noticed the buzzing coming from the plum tree. It wasn’t a swarm of bees, but hundreds of wasps. Closer inspection showed that the tree was plagued by aphids, and the wasps, together with a few dozen ladybirds, were feasting on them. Poor old wasps get such a bad press, but do so much good by tackling garden pests. True, they can sting, but only when provoked. They should really be thought of as the Spitfires of the insect world, saving our gardens from an enemy invasion.

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