We have had our chickens since April 2014 so they have just turned one. I am not sure why I have not put a blog post up yet on the chickens, maybe its due to the chooks just being about all the time and not popping up like plants do in the garden, but I do sense I should be celebrating our two little hens via Self and Roots as they are very special to us. We also have a goldfish in the house who is named J Gilla (a play on names from a personally much-loved hip hop producer J Dilla) so Beck and I have our own little platoon of creatures that live with us, well three animals and us two but it feels that way.
Our chickens came with trouble when we had them, my dad hatched the hens at his home and we inherited three chicks which lived contentedly until one started to crow, the evening my dad dropped off the chicks he warned us that he thought one might be a cockerel, his animal intuition came true and we faced an issue of having to rehouse a cockerel in a world where cockerels are not needed as much as hens are.
We did find a home through a small holding forum eventually and the cockerel was sent to a large small-holding in the Midlands on a warm Sunday morning, there were tears from Becky and a feeling of responsibility and a little shame with being blinded with cuteness and rearing little chicks as they were so endearing. In reality we should have got point of lay hens, we were delivered with our first lesson in animal care with having to rehouse an animal which wasn’t very cool.
We got home that night, moved on to being more optimistic but only for another twelve hours as the next hen the following morning started crowing. It felt like a bit of a shitty joke nightmare at first, within two weeks we had to re-home two of our hens.
Then we had to find another hen as hens can’t be left on their own, on the second guilty drive home we went to a hen breeder in South Staffordshire and picked up a Maran hen and settled her into her new pen. The only hen from the three first chickens established a pecking order quickly by starting a tussle with the new hen, the maran won the pecking order and by the first week had established her role as the dominant hen. It was a reasonably taxing couple week but once the blame disappeared and the hens became acquaintances we felt back on track.
Without over humanising the chickens, they are good friends and spend all day together – we let them out in the morning and in the evening when we get back from work. They are not much hassle, we use an Eglu to keep them housed and they have a run which is extended with additional Eglu fencing.
The hens eat our greens and kitchen scraps that we give them; they enjoy meal worms and provide us with compost for the garden. They also have sweet personalities and their own social order, the maran is so soft to hold, pleasant to be around and loves being fussed, the white hen who was the runt of the chicks is a little smaller and ballsy, she doesn’t hesitate to peck us now and again to let us know if she is hungry and she is also willing to demonstrate how she wishes to be next in line with the order and dominance in the garden even if it’s against me and Becky.
Their rent is paid through glorious eggs which are poached for brunch, scrambled for breakfast, frittata’d (is that a word?) for dinner. We flipped a lid when the first eggs came and we are so appreciative to be provided with not only a great learning curve in animal care but also produce which could be used by us in the kitchen. They were in our lives before the eggs came and even then they felt they were more than worth keeping. Keeping hens like all living things thrive when they have food, water and a pen to be safe in – they do need to be cared for, checked on a daily basis and you have to be interested in them. What cost us initially a few hundred pounds to set up has been a worthwhile experience, an experience that we cherish on a daily basis.